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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings can't upgrade to elite status

Their 4-3 loss to Chicago leaves them 0-4 this season against the Stanley Cup champions and 0-3 on an eight-game homestand. They've also lost four in a row overall.

January 03, 2011|Helene Elliott

Are the Kings victims of bad bounces and worse luck or simply not good enough to compete with the NHL's elite?

They'll have a day off Tuesday to ponder that. Certainly they can use the time to decide if they ever intend to win during an eight-game homestand that continued Monday with a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center.

The Kings are 0-3 in this stretch and have lost four straight games overall, matching their longest winless streak this season. They lost all four games of their season series against the defending Stanley Cup champions not because the Blackhawks are infinitely better — they're struggling to find their footing — but because the Kings have lacked the mental toughness to take command of their destiny.

"I think we shot ourselves in the foot again tonight with the intensity and the details with the puck," Coach Terry Murray said.

The details were these:

The Kings dominated the first period but came out even at 1-1 thanks to a redirection by Michal Handzus — his first goal in 20 games — and a smart drive to the net by Chicago's Marian Hossa on a power play. The Blackhawks gained strength in the second and took leads of 2-1 and 3-2, the latter after a turnover by Alec Martinez at the Kings' blue line.

The Kings tied it at 2-2 on a great lead pass by Justin Williams to Ryan Smyth and 3-3 at 12:42 of the third period when a shot by Jack Johnson broke the blade off Smyth's stick as the puck entered the net, but a freaky carom proved more than they could overcome.

Chicago defenseman Keith Seabrook's attempt to flip the puck from behind the net hit Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and plopped into the slot. Drew Doughty might have been the only player who knew where it was, but his clearing attempt went off the leg of Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and past Quick at 14:33 for the final margin.

"It's a bounce and right now we're not getting them. They got it tonight. That's all it is. That's what hockey's about right there," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said.

"You can play as hard as you want, you can lock it down as much as you want, but sometimes you're just not going to get the bounces and that's the case right there."

Quick said he wasn't sure where the puck caromed. "I thought it may have been in off my shoulder. I tried to lean forward a little bit so it didn't bank in off my shoulder, but it ended up falling in front of the net there, right in the crease," he said. "I believe it was [Doughty] tried to clear it and it took a tough bounce off somebody's skate."

A needless penalty by Justin Williams at 16:05 and a point-blank save by Corey Crawford on Anze Kopitar with 14.4 seconds left sealed the verdict for the Kings, who have lost six straight games against Chicago.

Murray rarely gets angry, but he clearly was unhappy with his team's penalties.

"We've got to be much more disciplined. … Some of them are a little, it's almost a get-even attitude out there and it's 'Me before the team.' That will never work with me," Murray said.

What also won't work is saying they could have been up after outshooting the Blackhawks, 11-1, and that if not for that bounce they should have won.

"It could have not bounced over the net and it could not have bounced off a shin pad, but it did," Williams said. "We've got to battle through and work through."

And realize that they're at a crossroads. "We can't let it affect us," Murray said. "We've got to be mature enough now to blow through that stuff and be excited about the next opponent to turn it around."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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