LOS ANGELES — With a bit of good fortune, the result might have been different for the Kings on Thursday night. But struggling teams are rarely blessed that way.
The Kings fought from behind all night, twice tying the score before the New Jersey Devils ran away with a 6-3 victory before 17,568 at Staples Center.
That gives the Kings a league-worst overall record of 10-18-1 (21 points). They are 6-10-1 at home – 4-6-0 under interim coach Willie Desjardins – and 6-10-0 overall with Desjardins at the helm.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick gave up five of the six goals – the sixth New Jersey goal was by Blake Coleman into an empty net with eight seconds to play. One of the goals Quick allowed was drastically redirected into the net by the stick of Kings defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Also, the Kings had what would have been a second-period goal by Jake Muzzin disallowed.
Snake-bit? That’s not how Kings defenseman Drew Doughty saw things, and he gave a blunt assessment after the game.
“I don’t really have too much to say,” said Doughty, who then said a lot. “It’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, it’s frustrating. It’s one thing to lose games when guys are competing; you can live with that. And you can live with doing good things.
“But when we’re not playing well, we’re not competing, you can’t live with it and we haven’t lived with it since it started happening. It’s going to take everyone to get us out of this, not just three or four guys.”
Doughty wasn’t done. When pressed, he reiterated he didn’t like the way the team competed.
“No,” he said. “You see some guys playing physical. Bottom line is, L.A. Kings have to be a physical hockey team – we’re not as skilled as other teams, that’s just the bottom line. We have to be a physical team, we have to be a hard team to play against.
“We have to have teams come in here and be like, ‘Oh, no, we’ve gotta play the Kings again in their arena,’ you know what I mean? I don’t see enough physicality from our team, I don’t see enough compete.”
Doughty also bemoaned the very idea that some of these losses are coming against other teams near the bottom of the standings.
“How are we losing to these teams?” Doughty said. “It’s not acceptable.”
Desjardins did not disagree with Doughty.
“Yeah, I think they’re fair comments,” he said. “We had a bad start to the second period, I thought we let them get going a little bit. We got a power play in the third and didn’t get anything on it, they got a power-play goal, so it seems like a little bit the same story.
“They certainly had the breaks going their way tonight.”
The Kings entered with a power-play success rate of 14.1 percent – second-worst in the league – and a penalty-kill success rate of 73.8 percent. Only two teams were worse.
The Devils scored first when Kyle Palmieri delivered his 13th goal of the season, on the power play at 13:49 of the first period. Palmieri hammered the puck into the net over the left shoulder of Quick.
The Devils nearly scored about 40 seconds earlier when Quick was out of position and Nico Hischier sent a puck toward the net that would have gone in had Kings defenseman Derek Forbort not been there to block it.
Undaunted, the Kings tied the score 1-1 at 15:41 on newcomer Brendan Leipsic’s third goal of the season, his first as a member of the Kings in just his second game with the club.
Leipsic received a cross-ice pass from Muzzin, stopped inside the right face-off circle and shot the puck past New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid. Alec Martinez had the other assist.
It didn’t take long for the Devils to take the lead in the second period, as Travis Zajac scored his ninth of the season just 25 seconds into the period. New Jersey came out hard, the Kings could not clear the puck and they paid for it.
The goal was unassisted. No blame to Quick on that one. Quick stopped 29 of 34 shots.
The Kings did show some fight. Adrian Kempe again tied the score for the Kings when he put in his fourth of the season from close range at 6:59 of the period. Doughty and Austin Wagner assisted. For Doughty, it was career assist No. 334, making him the franchise’s all-time assists leader among defensemen, surpassing current GM Rob Blake.
Just under four minutes later, at 10:57, Palmieri scored his second of the game and 14th of the season for a 3-2 Devils lead.
The Kings then were victims of bad luck when Will Butcher was given credit for a goal at 12:28. He shot the puck from distance, and it made a significant change of direction when it hit the stick of Phaneuf. Quick had no chance to make the save and the Kings were down 4-2.
A little more than a minute later, the Kings thought they had a goal by Muzzin. The light went on, but officials reviewed the play and ruled the puck never crossed the goal line after it hit first the crossbar and then the post before flying back out.
But the Kings weren’t ready to roll over, and they were within 4-3 when Kyle Clifford scored his fifth at 17:37 of the period.
It was unassisted, as Kinkaid made a stick save of a long shot by Martinez and then shoved the puck out into play, with Clifford driving it home.
The Kings were still in it, but a goal by Hischier – his sixth – at 11:06 of the third gave New Jersey a two-goal cushion again.
Kings captain Anze Kopitar sat at his locker following the game, obviously filled with frustration.
“It gets harder with each and every loss, really,” he said. “You dig a bigger hole every night, and it’s hard to get out of it. Like I said, when things don’t go right, everything’s going wrong against you. But then again, it’s up to us to come out of that hole.”
New Jersey came into the game having gone 0-3-3 over its previous six games with a road record of 2-10-1.
“It’s huge for us to get a win on the road,” Palmieri said. “It is definitely a big road trip for us, but we came into it just focusing on one game and getting off to a good start.”
This was the first game of a three-game trip for New Jersey.
Next up for the Kings is Vegas on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Staples Center.
“[We] scored some goals, but gave up too many chances.”
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) December 7, 2018
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 7, 2018
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 7, 2018