And so we now bid farewell to the Kings, not because they play their next three games on the road but because their season, for all intents, ended Thursday in a soulless and goalless loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
It's no shame to lose to the defending Stanley Cup champions. Many teams have been beaten by the pinpoint passing, potent power play and staunch work ethic that have fueled the Red Wings' 8-0-2 surge since their last regulation-time loss. If they win the Cup again, it will be no great surprise.
It is shameful to play as the Kings did, to falter at the smallest sign of adversity and show so little passion in a 4-0 loss in front of a Staples Center crowd that was split between ecstatic Red Wings fans and agonized Kings fans.
Three days after holding a players-only meeting to discuss the urgency of scoring some goals and staying within a short winning streak of the last Western Conference playoff berth, the Kings did nothing to suggest they'll close that gap.
Talk is cheap, and the Kings appear unwilling to pay the price to win. The energy and go-to-the-net aggressiveness they spoke about were absent Thursday as they took only 23 shots against Ty Conklin and rarely threatened his fifth shutout this season. They have lost three straight games, scoring two goals in that span.
"We've got to turn it around," Kings defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "We've been saying that the last couple games. It's going to be too late if we don't figure it out soon."
It's probably too late already.
The Kings are seven points out of eighth place and have scored the fewest goals of any team in the West, 104. Including the trip that starts Saturday at Dallas, they will play eight of their next nine on the road, where they are 5-9-0.
"We scored one goal in the last two games here, and at home that just won't cut it," center Anze Kopitar said. "We've got to find a way to first of all score and then find a way to win. It's that point of the season when you keep pushing for the playoffs or fall back.
"The last two years we broke apart at this time of the season and we were playing for nothing, basically, the last 30 games. This road trip coming up is huge for us and we've got to find a way to win."
They didn't come close Thursday.
To the delight of the vocal Detroit fans in the sellout crowd of 18,118, the Kings gave the puck away to set up Detroit's first goal, in the first period.
Derek Armstrong was along the right-wing boards when he passed the puck to defenseman Denis Gauthier, who was behind the goal line. Gauthier froze when Kris Draper lifted the puck off his stick and came around the net to try and wrap it inside the left post. Goalie Jonathan Quick stopped that shot, but Kirk Maltby prodded home the rebound at 7:40.
The Red Wings' league-leading power play did its job with admirable efficiency at 16:44.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene -- a native of Grand Ledge, Mich. -- was in the penalty box when Jiri Hudler made a crisp cross-ice pass to Henrik Zetterberg, who was in the right circle. Zetterberg threaded a diagonal pass through the legs of Kings defenseman Sean O'Donnell, delivering the puck to Johan Franzen at the left post. Franzen had no trouble beating Quick for his 20th goal this season.
The Kings took all of three shots in the second period, while the Red Wings scored twice.
Mikael Samuelsson completed a bang-bang play by lunging while he redirected another flat and accurate pass from Hudler past Quick at 9:43. Draper cruised through the slot unchecked to score Detroit's fourth goal, at 13:59 of the second period, after taking a nifty backhand pass from Tomas Kopecky.
"That brings out what we're lacking when we play a good team like that," Quincey said.
"For us to get in, get pressure and show that our battle level is high, we've got to make plays to get into their zone, get out of our zone clean. We give them time to make plays and it looks like we're just chasing the puck around, and that's what it was tonight."
The Kings missed workhorse defenseman Drew Doughty, who sustained a bruised thigh Monday on a hit from Tampa Bay's Evgeny Artyukhin. But Doughty, who said he expects to return any day, couldn't have done much to change the outcome Thursday -- or to keep the Kings from reaching the end of the playoff road before they hit the road.
"These next three games are our season, really," right wing Dustin Brown said. "We'll either climb the hill or fall down the hill. . . . This will be the test of the year for us."