In less than 48 hours the Kings went from the sublime — a dramatic shootout victory over defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado — to the ridiculous, with a lethargic effort in a 4-2 loss to the struggling Philadelphia Flyers at Crypto.com Arena.
The Kings’ defensemen were turned inside out too many times. Their penalty killing unit gave up a goal for the 10th straight game, leaving them 28th in the league. Their power play was scored upon, too, allowing Noah Cates to complete a Philadelphia comeback on a long shot that got past a screened Jonathan Quick at 13:01 of the third period.
The Flyers cemented it with an empty-net goal, but the three goals they scored on Quick were all high on his glove (left) side. He’s winless in his past five starts, having last earned a victory on Dec. 1. Since then, Pheonix Copley has gotten the bulk of the playing time.
“It’s what it is,” coach Todd McLellan said of Quick’s performance. “And whether it’s Jonathan Quick or anybody else, that’s the way it goes, and we have a ton of confidence in him.”
It was worrisome. Maybe enough for the Kings to add a goaltender to their shopping list, along with a brawny, left-handed shooting defenseman.
The Kings’ inadequate special teams play and failure to put two passes together in the early going also were key factors in consigning them to defeat. “We probably got what we deserved today,” McLellan said.
No “probably” about it. This was a stinker on an occasion the Kings (21-13-6) needed something much better, something confident and clean and commanding.
Before they stumbled on Saturday the Kings had built a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) that lifted them within two points of Pacific Division-leading Vegas. They’re still second, but the gap is now four points. Also, the Kings have played more games than Vegas and more games than the teams behind them, Edmonton, Calgary, and Seattle. The Kings’ points percentage of .600 (48 points out of a possible 80) ranked 13th in the NHL after their loss Saturday.
“The game was right there. It’s not like we let it slip in the first or in the second. We just didn’t get the job done, that’s what it was,” Anze Kopitar said.
There’s a lot of hockey to be played; the Kings will reach the halfway point of the season on Tuesday, when they play host to Central Division-leading Dallas. To McLellan, the day-to-day standings matter less than the big picture of how the Kings are progressing in their goal to make an impact in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, and not just make the playoffs. This game didn’t move them forward.
“We’re still putting things in place and we’re trying to keep our game growing. We shrunk a little tonight. We gave a little bit back. We all know that,” McLellan said. “But we’ve got to get back on the horse and ride it again. If there’s a horse in front of us right now, so be it. We’ve got to make sure that ours is in good shape and ready to run, and that’s where we’re at.”
The Kings scored first on Saturday, with Adrian Kempe capitalizing on a five-on-three advantage at 9:46 of the first period. Scott Laughton matched that for the Flyers at 12:15 during a power play, unleashing a one-timer after being set up by Anaheim Hills native Cam York.
Phillip Danault put the Kings ahead at 13:12 with a slap shot off the rush, extending his point streak to seven games, with five goals and nine points in that span. But the Flyers pulled even at 9:02 of the second period on a goal by Owen Tippett past Quick’s left arm and took the lead for good on Cates’ short-handed goal, off a counterattack. Travis Konecny sealed it by scoring into the empty net with 27 seconds left.
“They got a power play and a shorty,” Kopitar said, “and that ended up to be the difference, which is unfortunate but sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
The loss spoiled a special moment for defenseman Alex Edler, who played his 1,000th regular-season NHL game. Players wore special hats with “1000” during warmups, and each player’s locker had a nameplate that featured Edler and commemorated the occasion.
“It was a hard-fought game from start to finish. They worked hard. They battled hard. I think they came out a little bit better than us and we came back,” said Edler, who played the first 924 regular-season games of his career with Vancouver before signing with the Kings in 2021 and re-signing this past summer.
“I think we believe in ourselves. We want to be up there. I think early on in the year we were a little bit inconsistent. We’ve been better lately. We’ve been finding our game a little more. And we’ve just got to understand the way we need to play to win games.”
The way forward can’t include repeats of lackluster efforts like they gave on Saturday.