Until recently, the Los Angeles Kings had been nearly unbeatable when leading after two periods before uncharacteristically letting a couple games slip away late.
One such defeat came against the Phoenix Coyotes, who look to win a fourth straight meeting Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The Kings (44-26-6) entered Monday’s contest against Minnesota riding a six-game winning streak, but they allowed two goals in the first five minutes of the third period after leading by one through 40 minutes in a 3-2 loss.
Alec Martinez and Justin Williams scored for the Kings, who sit firmly in third place in the Pacific Division.
”Keeping the lead in the third period is usually our team’s forte,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. ”But we didn’t play very well in the second, and then we had a little collapse in the third. They got two goals really quick, and we couldn’t get it back.
”We knew that if we let them back in the game it would be tough to win it.”
It was a similar situation from Los Angeles’ last meeting with Phoenix, when the Coyotes erased a one-goal deficit after two periods by netting a pair in the third for a 4-3 win.
The Kings had lost only once in regulation over their previous 138 games when leading after the second.
”We’ve had a tendency this last week or so to give up leads in the third period, and that’s very uncharacteristic of us,” Williams said. ”We need to rectify that in these last five or six games, because we’re a team that shuts it down once we get the lead.”
Los Angeles won the first matchup with Phoenix on Oct. 24 but has dropped the last three. Jonathan Quick, who is 5-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average over his last six starts, has been in net for two of those defeats and has a 3.69 GAA in three outings against the Coyotes this season.
He could be in goal for this contest as Phoenix looks to bounce back from Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg. Zbynek Michalek scored the tying goal 19 seconds into the second period, but the Coyotes couldn’t generate more before being stopped on all three shootout attempts.
"There’s an extra point there that you’d certainly like to have," coach Dave Tippett said. "They got a couple of bounces, we didn’t. Sometimes as good as you want to be, the game doesn’t let you be good."
The Coyotes (36-27-13) have lost two straight while scoring a single goal in each. They’ve picked a bad time to struggle, as they’re now tied with Dallas in points for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot and don’t hold the tiebreaker. The Stars also have one game in hand.
"All we’re talking about is getting points every game," Tippett said. "Ultimately you have to take care of yourself. You know what’s going on around you, but you have to take care of yourself.
"We’ll get ready for tomorrow night and go try and get points tomorrow."
Thomas Greiss made 21 saves in his fourth straight start as Mike Smith continues to nurse a right knee injury. Greiss made 30 saves in a 3-0 win over the Kings on Jan. 28 in his only career start against them, and he’ll be in net again for this contest.
Phoenix’s win last month ended a three-game skid at Staples Center.