Kings Coach Terry Murray looks on from behind the bench during the Kings'… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )
Kings Coach Terry Murray had every right to be angry after his team's 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues Thursday at Staples Center, a bafflingly bad performance that followed a splendidly chiseled four-game road sweep.
But Murray misdirected his fury by venting it toward fans in the announced sellout crowd of 18,118 who booed as the Kings left the ice after the second period.
Murray seemed to think fans owe a blind loyalty and called the jeers "the most disappointing, frustrating thing" in a dispiriting evening. The Kings trailed, 2-0, and were being outshot, 30-6, and fans who paid good money were getting a bad performance that kept alive the fear lodged in the heart of the most optimistic among them.
"That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That's the worst I have ever been through in all the years I've been coaching," Murray said. "I've been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL and booed off the ice by your own fans, at the end of the second period, after… this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places, it's very disappointing."
Video: Ryan Smyth on Kings' loss to Blues
He then turned on his heel and left the press conference room. Most fans had exited well before he did. They groaned after first- and second-period goals by Matt D'Agostini but left sometime between the Alex Pietrangelo slap shot from a stride over the red line that eluded Jonathan Quick at 5:09 of the third period and a fluttering backhander by T.J. Oshie that got past Quick's glove at 12:39 of the third.
The loss was compounded for the Kings by an apparent head injury suffered by gritty winger Kyle Clifford in a first-period fight with Ryan Reaves. Clifford's legs buckled after he took a punch to the face and he went to the locker room instead of the penalty box. He did not return. The Kings called it an upper-body injury and Murray said he had no update.
Jaroslav Halak's fifth shutout of the season was hardly more strenuous than a practice. The Blues, realistically out of the playoff scramble, skated circles around the Kings, who dropped to fifth in the West. They also slipped to third in the Pacific division with 85 points, behind San Jose (90) and Phoenix (87).
Where did this stinker come from?
"I don't know," defenseman Matt Greene said, "but I never want to go there again."
It's tough to be critical after a 16-4-4 surge. But like the fans, players expected better of themselves.
"There's no easy game. You can't take any nights off," winger Ryan Smyth said in the quiet locker room. "It's very frustrating. If you're not frustrated in this room then you shouldn't be in here."
Despite tying a season-low with two shots in the first period the Kings trailed only by a goal, D'Agostini's rebound of a shot by Adam Cracknell at 16:30. Even after the jeer-worthy second period they trailed by only two, after D'Agostini slotted a shot between Quick's left arm and the post.
But the Kings never sustained any pressure on Halak and put up little fight anywhere on the ice.
"There's nothing to explain. We had nothing going on, there was no energy, we were totally outplayed," Murray said.
Said Greene: "We've got to be better. There's no excuses. "There's nothing you can blame it on."
Certainly not fans, who deserved better Thursday.