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NHL : NASHVILLE 5 KINGS 2

Kings sinking at Staples

They fall to 0-4 on an eight-game homestand and have lost five in a row overall.

January 07, 2011|HELENE ELLIOTT

The Kings are imploding, their discipline splintering as rapidly as opponents are outracing their flat-footed defense. They are tripping over the expectations set out for them and by themselves, entirely too fragile mentally and unwilling or unable to make the sacrifices they gladly made last season while stamping themselves as a team to watch.

A good beginning Thursday turned into a horror show, a lifeless 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators that extended their losing streak to a season-worst five and left them winless halfway into an eight-game homestand that should have been their springboard to solidifying a playoff spot.

After playing exemplary defense in a four-game winning streak, the Kings have been strafed for 23 goals in their last five games. The home penalty killing that was their strength was dented twice more and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who earned half his four victories this season against the Predators, didn't distinguish himself.

But neither did any of his teammates on the re-re-reconfigured lines concocted by Coach Terry Murray.

"We're just flat-out not playing well. We're not battling. We're not competing the way we can," defenseman Drew Doughty said after the Kings allowed the injury-thinned Predators to score five straight goals, three in the second and two in the third.

"I think after we won those couple games in a row we kind of sat back too much and maybe thought we were too good and now everyone's taking it to us."

The Kings deserved every boo they heard from the early-departing crowd of 17,823 at Staples Center. Colin Wilson had a goal and two assists in the second period and Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist scored in the third period as the Kings crumbled in every possible way.

The Predators, thinned by injuries and playing for the second night in a row, have won four straight games -- a display of solid defense, spirit and cohesiveness that the Kings would do well to copy.

Asked what has been happening lately, team captain Dustin Brown was at a loss.

"Good question," he said. "We didn't work or compete hard enough. It's hard to win games when you're not working hard enough. That's the only thing that I can really come up with, to be honest with you.

"The last little skid we've been in, it's not X's and O's. It just comes down to getting out there and working, and we don't have that consistently."

They had some life early in the second period, building a 2-0 lead as Marco Sturm and Jarret Stoll moved out of Murray's doghouse for a while. Kyle Clifford backhanded the rebound of a Sturm shot past Anders Lindback at 2:16, with Anze Kopitar's secondary assist counting as his 200th as a King, and Stoll scored his first goal in 16 games on a 40-foot shot at 7:57, after Ryan Smyth had swept Lindback's stick beyond the goalie's reach.

But the Kings gave up the almost-obligatory goal soon after they scored one: Wilson, son of former NHL player Carey Wilson, deflected a shot by Ryan Suter past Bernier one minute later and the Predators kept rolling.

"We've been doing that way too often this year," Doughty said. "The main reason is we're not battling, competing and digging in."

The Predators pulled even when an unchecked Marek Svatos scored on the rebound of a shot by Wilson, and they took the lead at 14:28 on another power-play goal, this one by Hornqvist after he parked in front of the net to deflect a long shot by Wilson.

Kostitsyn's stoppable dribbler gave the Predators a 4-2 lead and Hornqvist sent fans toward the exits with a goal from in-close at 15:33.

What now for the Kings?

"It's about attitude right now to me," Murray said. "I think we've got to get back into that more compete, dig in and just earn the right to win some hockey games."

Said defenseman Rob Scuderi: "We've got four more games to turn this thing around and boost ourselves up, but we've got to turn this around fast."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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