Reporting from St. Louis — There are moments that can define a season.
The Kings can only hope that this wasn't the one.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick was strong throughout Tuesday, keeping the Kings afloat through a sluggish start and handful of inopportune penalties, putting them in position to salvage a two-game trip.
Then, in a flicker, this became another step toward the exit.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Erik Johnson flipped a harmless-looking wrist shot from the blue line. Quick had the puck, then he didn't, as it trickled through his pads and over the goal line, pushing the Blues to a 2-1 victory at the Scottrade Center.
"I thought I smothered it," Quick said. "We played a great game. We deserved to get the two points. Then one bad goal costs us."
Johnson's goal, 13 minutes into the third period, allowed the Blues to win for only the second time in eight games. A woeful stretch has them lagging behind in the playoff race.
How could that be worse? Well, both victories have come against the Kings, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games and dropped to 12th place in the Western Conference, one point behind the Blues.
The loss comes a night after the Kings wasted another solid goaltender performance, as Jonathan Bernier stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 2-1 loss to Dallas.
Asked whether there was a concern that these are games the Kings will have to make up now, Coach Terry Murray said, "A concern? It's a fact."
A few other facts that the Kings need to ponder.
Their offense was limited to one goal for the third time in four games, and the one came when a puck fired by defenseman Matt Greene deflected off teammate Kyle Clifford into the net late in the second period. It was the second consecutive game that the Kings' lone goal came when a puck ricocheted off a player.
The Kings went scoreless on the power play for the fifth consecutive game. They squandered a chance immediately after Johnson's goal, getting only one shot with Vladimir Sobotka off for tripping.
"The offense is coming," Greene said. "It's just a matter of time. We have more of an offensive zone presence. We're getting our net mentality back."
Waiting on the offense left Quick to dangle precariously.
This was the goalie's best game in nearly a month. He has labored through a bad stretch, winning once in his last six starts. He gave up four goals in the one victory.
But Quick was sharp at the start Tuesday, bailing out the Kings, who spent almost all of the first 10 minutes in their own zone.
The only goal Quick gave up during that stretch came on a five-on-three power play. The Blues' Matt D'Agostini threaded a pass through two Kings' players to Patrik Berglund, who banged in a shot at the far post midway through the first period.
"Quicker played great and made some big stops," Murray said.
Quick made 24 saves. But the spiraling Kings needed 25.
"That was a save you have to have 100% of the time," Murray said.