New York's Matt Moulson, left, celebrates with teammate P.A. Parenteau… (Paul Bereswill / Getty Images )
From Uniondale, N.Y. — Former Kings winger Matt Moulson was still in his sweaty undershirt when goaltender Jonathan Quick, bundled up for the blustery weather outside, approached him near the New York Islanders' locker room and folded him in a warm hug.
Friends and brothers-in-law — they are married to sisters — they dined together Friday but were opponents Saturday. Moulson won the family bragging rights by scoring twice in a 3-0 victory that ended the Kings' point streak at a club-record-tying 11 games, and he seemed almost apologetic as Quick embraced him.
"I was lucky you were screened," Moulson said of his first goal, a blast that found the upper-left corner at 6:54 of the second period when defenseman Rob Scuderi skated in front of Quick.
"No. Perfect shot," Quick insisted, patting Moulson on the arm.
Although Moulson enjoyed his moment — with 23 goals, he is likely to eclipse the 30 that he scored last season after the Kings let him walk and the Islanders signed him as a free agent — Quick and the Kings left to continue their battle for a playoff spot after perhaps the emotionally toughest game of their 10-game road odyssey.
They didn't have much fight as their 8-0-3 point streak ended and they absorbed their first regulation loss since Jan. 20, allowing Al Montoya to make 35 saves in his first shutout since April 2009.
All of the competitiveness that the Kings showed while winning in Philadelphia and Washington and compiling a 5-0-3 record in the first eight games of this trip must have been stowed in their suitcases before they took to the ice Saturday. They seemed to have checked out before the game was more than a few minutes old, already thinking of warmer weather and the final away game that awaits them Wednesday night against the Ducks in Anaheim.
"It would have been a great road trip if we'd gotten two points, but everyone was looking at this as our make-or-break and we were right there," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We've just got to keep going. It's hard to sit here and be happy with how we played tonight, but we get home, we get some rest and we get ready for Anaheim."
The Kings' game plan must include more persistence and creativity than was on display Saturday. Their shot total did not reflect the rarity of their pressure or their lack of zip. Once Michael Grabner intercepted a pass Jack Johnson had intended for Drew Doughty and fed Frans Nielsen for a short-handed goal at 5:01 of the first period, the Kings appeared deflated and never mustered much resistance.
"We knew that they were going to come out hungry and we needed to weather the storm," Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. "It's been a long trip, but you've got to stay strong mentally. We obviously came up short."
Coach Terry Murray, who had feared his team might get ambushed, took no satisfaction in being right.
"The first power play we get we make a real soft, easy pass and they jump on it, and that's kind of the way the whole thing went all night long," he said. "I don't think we completed three passes in a row tonight. We had a lot of plays end after that second pass."
Moulson clinched the victory with a shot from the slot at 13:40 of the final period, delighting a spirited crowd of 13,119 and sending the Kings home to think about what might have been.
"It could have been a great road trip if we had won tonight," said Murray, who scratched creative center Andrei Loktionov and instead deployed enforcer Kevin Westgarth. "It was a very good road trip."
It got the Kings back into a playoff position, but in a season full of wild streaks they can't let this begin another downturn — or settle for "very good" when excellence is demanded.