LOS ANGELES—What happens when an offensively challenged hockey team loses its No. 1 goal scorer?
Not too difficult to predict. The Kings sunk further in the mud Saturday afternoon against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Except for a nice surge the first seven minutes of the game, none of the Kings seemed willing to pick up the slack for Mike Richards, who went on injured reserve the day before after suffering an apparent concussion against Florida. The lack of activity in the offensive end added up to a 2-1 loss against the equally struggling Canadiens at Staples Center.
The Kings, ranked 25th in the league in scoring coming in at 2.3 goals a game, have scored two goals or less in the last five games. Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, making his fifth start of the season, has been supported by just 10 goals during that stretch.
“We’ve been trying to score since the first game of the year,” said defenseman Jack Johnson. “We feel bad because, once again, our goalie played great and we only scored one goal. It has been a problem all year….if we had any [solutions], I don’t think it would be a problem.”
After the game, Kings coach Terry Murray singled out Johnson and fellow defensemen Drew Doughty for their lack of productivity, a slump that seems to be related to their unwillingness to shoot the puck.
Doughty, who skipped training camp while his representatives negotiated the team's most lucrative contract, has not scored a goal in the last 10 games and Johnson has one in the last 12.
“The back end has to be a big offensive contributor,” Murray said. “You saw Florida the other night. They have 62 points from their back-end group, so that’s a lot of points. That’s what we rely on for both Jack and Doughty. They need to start shooting the puck.”
Murray cited a prime example in the closing minute against Montreal. The Kings won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck came to Doughty in the slot, but he opted to carry the puck toward the wall, wasting valuable seconds off the clock.
“You’ve got to pound the puck away, you’ve got to get a lot more to the net,” Murray said. “That’s the reason, part of the time, whenever we end up with six shots in a period.”
Doughty and Johnson are far from alone in their goal-scoring droughts. Justin Williams, who scored 22 goals last season and didn’t go more than eight games without a goal, has not scored in the last 17 games. He didn’t take a shot against the Canadiens, committed three giveaways and was also whistled for a boarding penalty with the Kings on the power play and 2 ½ minutes remaining in the game.
“Sometimes, I think he tries to do too much, other times I’d like to see him hold onto the puck a little more,” Murray said. “Getting pucks to the net is where he needs to get to on a consistent basis.”
That’s an area the entire team can improve, Murray said, and they fell woefully short down the stretch against Montreal, totaling just 13 shots on goal the final two periods.
“At the end of the day, again, we end up with six shots on net in the third period, in a critical time, in a 2-1 game,” Murray said. “That’s where you’ve got to have the mentality of really loading up in front of the net. You’ve got a get a dozen shots, you’ve got to get 15 shots in a game like tonight.”
The Kings will get their next shot Tuesday in Anaheim, when they visit a Ducks team that’s even worse offensively, beginning the day ranked 29th in the league in scoring.