WASHINGTON — If the Kings think that they are showing signs of getting out of their recent funk, they are only kidding themselves.
Successful teams play to win no matter what the situation is because that's the only way they know. Not the Kings, who lost their third game in a row Saturday afternoon when Washington skated away with a 3-2 victory before 15,522 at the MCI Center, the Capitals' eighth win in a row at home.
In losing for the eighth time in 12 games, the Kings again failed to resemble a team that deserves to be in the playoffs. This coming after giving strong efforts in back-to-back shutout losses at Buffalo and Philadelphia.
They did manage to score two goals and end their scoreless streak at 136 minutes and 38 seconds, but their overall play was far from playoff quality.
"The playoffs? . . . forget about it," said goaltender Stephane Fiset, who played well in making 28 saves but lost his fourth consecutive start. "We just keep thinking about that and that's why we are not playing as good as we played before. We're thinking too much about that. . . . we need to stop talking about the playoffs and just play our game."
That's only if they can remember what their game is.
Instead of playing hard and keeping mental mistakes to a minimum for three periods--like they've talked about throughout this six-game trip--the Kings continued to have stretches of soft play.
"If we were in the playoffs right now, we would be four games and out of it," defenseman Rob Blake said. "Guys have to realize that we need to wake up a little bit. We have seven games left to get going. I don't think we need to panic, but there is a concern that we have to get back to work."
On all three goals scored by Washington, the Kings failed to utilize their size, and their lack of aggressiveness cost them.
Peter Bondra, one of the league's top goal scorers, put the Capitals ahead, 1-0, at 6:08 of the first period when he skated untouched to the right side of the crease and scored easily off a set up pass from Andrei Nikolishin. It was Bondra's 48th goal.
After Garry Galley tied the score, 1-1, with his eighth goal at 14:59, the Kings were charitable again on Washington's second goal less than a minute later.
Steve Konowalchuk gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead when he was in perfect position to score a rebound goal after Fiset blocked a close shot by Bondra at 15:11.
"We're just not playing desperate enough," King Coach Larry Robinson said. "We're getting chances but we're giving up more than we're getting."
The Kings really dug a hole for themselves early in the second period when Esa Tikkanen beat two King defenders to a loose puck and scored from the right circle at 3:48 to give Washington a 3-1 lead.
The Kings outshot the Capitals in the second period, 16-6, but were only able to move within a goal when Steve McKenna scored his fourth of the season off an assist from Jozef Stumpel at 7:04.
In a scoreless third period, the Kings kept up their pressure to tie the score but Washington ended up having the better scoring chances. Fiset had to make timely stops on Craig Berube and a couple on Bondra--including a penalty shot at 13:59--to keep the score close.
The Kings, who dropped to 14-17-8 on the road and 1-4 on this trip, end the trip Monday at Colorado.
"We've cost ourselves some valuable points. . . . Chicago and Phoenix have made up some ground on us and we're right back in that group," Blake said. "We have one more game on this road trip and then [five] of our last six games are at home and that's when we have to get on a roll again. The worst thing we can do is panic and get frustrated and start trying to make too many changes."