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NHL : TORONTO 3, KINGS 2

Kings continue to waste homestand

They give up a third-period goal to Maple Leafs and fall to 1-5 in last six games at Staples Center.

January 11, 2011|HELENE ELLIOTT

The Kings began the second half of their season much as they skidded toward the end of the first half -- with sloppy defensive play, a lack of discipline and an ugly loss at home.

Turnovers and the disintegration of their team-first game consigned the Kings to a 3-2 loss to Toronto Monday before a crowd of 17,834 at Staples Center. The Kings are 1-5 on an eight-game homestand that has become a nightmare that won't end.

The Kings (23-18-1) have lost six of their last seven games. The only interlude was a mistake-filled 6-4 victory they somehow wrested from Columbus Saturday.

"Not everyone has to have a great game every single game. You do have to have a good game and if enough guys have a good game good things will happen," defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

"Right now we've got to figure it out because this is a chance to move up in the standings and we're going backwards."

Nikolai Kulemin scored the winner at 4:58 of the third period off a scramble in front after Kings defenseman Alec Martinez turned the puck over at his blue line. The Kings had a late power play and came close to scoring on a play that was reviewed with 35.1 seconds left, but the no-goal call on the ice was upheld.

The Maple Leafs had 28 shots at Jonathan Quick, who has lost four of his last five decisions.

"This is a big homestand for us. Playoffs are at stake during this," team captain Dustin Brown said. "We've got to find a way to get it going as players. We need to look each other in the face and get this thing turned around."

The Kings took a 1-0 lead at 15:18 of the first period on Wayne Simmonds' first goal in nine games but fell behind when Toronto scored twice in 34 seconds early in the second period.

Simmonds, who is from the Toronto area, held the puck along the left-wing boards and barged past defenseman Dion Phaneuf to get to the net, where he used his size and strength to send a wrist shot past goalie James Reimer for his first goal since Dec. 26.

That lead vanished in a flash. Left wing Darryl Boyce, playing only his seventh NHL game, tied it when he shot the puck through Martinez's legs and into a small space in the upper-right corner of the net at 2:27 of the second period.

The Maple Leafs went ahead at 3:01, after Joey Crabb sent a cross-ice pass through the legs of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and to Phil Kessel deep on the left side.

Kessel wristed it home for his 18th goal.

"I thought we had a good first period. Maybe a couple of things we could have tightened up, but overall we were pretty pleased," Scuderi said. "Then they get the two quick ones and like the last two weeks here since Christmas panic sets in, guys try and do it themselves, guys are doing other guys' jobs and watch us slowly fall apart after that."

The Kings tied it at 14:53 of the second period on a fortunate deflection. Martinez threw the puck toward the front of the net, where it glanced off Michal Handzus' skate and stick and dribbled past Reimer.

They pressed in the closing minutes but too late to save them. A few more games like that and their season will be lost too.

"We have to have that type of effort from the start," Scuderi said. "It probably wouldn't have been a game if we had that kind of effort we had in the last 15 minutes."

General Manager Dean Lombardi, on an Eastern scouting trip, missed this game. If he can't bring back a productive forward he'd best bring home another idea for salvaging a season that started so well but is headed steadily downhill.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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