LOS ANGELES -- That was the type of performance that got the last coach fired.
The Kings hosted the worst team in the NHL on Saturday afternoon, were supplemented with eight power plays against the league’s second-poorest penalty-kill unit, two of which were two-man advantages, and still couldn’t score in the 1-0 loss to the Blue Jackets at Staples Center.
It was the first shutout win by Columbus since Feb. 22.
“A game like tonight, we lost because of the power play,” said center Anze Kopitar, a mainstay on the special teams.
The Kings came into the game 27th out of 30 teams in power-play efficiency, having scored just one man-advantage goal in the last 23 opportunities. The Blue Jackets countered with the league’s 29th penalty-kill unit. Something had to give and it sure wasn't Columbus.
“I don’t care what they are,” Kings center Jarret Stoll said of the Blue Jackets. “It’s about us, how we move the puck, how we pass the puck, shoot the puck, when we shoot, when we don’t, just a lot of things. You’ve got to all be in sync and if you’re not, it’s hard to score.”
As the league’s lowest-scoring team, the Kings saw their goals-per-game average dip from 2.07 a game to 2.03, dangerously close to the NHL’s unofficial Mendoza line. They failed to score a first-period goal for the 27th time in the last 37 games, and own 16 first-period goals in 42 games this season, by far the lowest total in the league.
Not the best way to start the second half of the season.
“We have to find a way to score goals,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “That has kind of been the problem for us all year. The answer wouldn’t be talking about it; we have to figure out a way to get a goal.”
The Kings were on consecutive power plays for the first 5:24 of the third period, including 36 seconds with a two-man advantage, but couldn’t find a way to get the puck around Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford, who came in 27th in the league with a 2.64 goals-against average and one shutout in the last four seasons.
The Kings pulled goalie Jonathan Quick with 1:36 left in the game for an extra attacker. Columbus then lost one of its players to a delay-of-game penalty 11 seconds later. Despite the two-man advantage the rest of the way, the Kings couldn’t score.
“The last couple power plays the openings were really small,” Kopitar said. “That’s where desperation kicks in.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who lost in regulation for the first time since he took over Dec. 22, said he’d like to see better accuracy from defenseman Jack Johnson on his point shots, and wants to see Kopitar curl and shoot more from the faceoff circles. Otherwise, he doesn’t have the golden answer to unlock the team’s power-play woes.
“It isn’t about being fancy, just keep trying to score goals,” he said.
If it were only that easy.