Dustin Penner, top left, is pushed over Colorado goalie Jean-Sebastien… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
One effective line and one goal were not nearly enough for the Kings on Saturday night, a refrain that is becoming all too familiar.
Their 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, played before a restless crowd at Staples Center, was another example of their offensive shortcomings and inability to get the balance and depth they need to make an impact in the Western Conference.
Worn down by Colorado's physical play in the early going, the Kings mustered four shots in the first period against Jean-Sebastien Giguere and 26 overall. Although it might seem picky to find fault in a defeat that was only the Kings' second regulation loss in 17 games — the last 16 of those under Coach Darryl Sutter — the lackluster play of everyone but Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams was alarming when they knew a victory would have put them atop the Pacific Division.
"It's hard to get shots when you don't have everyone playing the right way, I guess," Brown said. "It's going to take 20 guys. Tonight, I don't think we had 20. That's the bottom line.
"Tonight we had some good lines, but you need four lines if you want to win games in this league."
Williams said the Kings allowed the Avalanche to dictate the physical tone and pace of the game, two big mistakes.
"When you play a team like Colorado, they're a run-and-gun team and if you don't have everybody working together and wanting the puck and supporting the puck, then you're just going to be in your end all night. I thought we were in our end a lot," Williams said.
"We made our defensemen go back for the puck way too often tonight and by the third period, late second period rolled around they're tired. They're going back a lot. They're getting hit. And that's what they did.
"Unfortunately, they wore us down tonight in our own arena, which is ultimately very upsetting."
Neither team could score until Kopitar broke through at 5 minutes 26 seconds of the second period. Williams controlled the puck deep and passed it to Brown, whose shot was stopped by Giguere. However, the rebound popped to the goalie's left, and Kopitar was in position to swat it home for his 15th goal this season.
Colorado pulled even at 13:35. Stefan Elliott made a fine stretch pass to Cody McLeod, putting McLeod in alone on Jonathan Quick. McLeod won that confrontation with a shot to Quick's stick side.
The Avalanche went ahead at 18:55 of the second after Peter Mueller, activated last week after a concussion cost him 40 games, redirected a shot by T.J. Galiardi. Colorado scored its third goal on the power play, at 18:03 of the third period, after impressive rookie winger Gabriel Landeskog took a pass and beat Quick with a wrist shot from the slot.
Quick was penalized for slashing at 18:16, which Sutter said was in retaliation for being clipped by Daniel Winnik. It might also have been anger at the meager goal support he has been getting, and no one would blame him for that.
"After the game, I said to Quick, 'Hang in there, buddy. We're going to get this,'" Williams said. "And I know he's frustrated, obviously, with the late penalties and he's frustrated that we're not scoring goals supporting him. I'm sure he'll never say that, but we've got to do that for him as well. Play good defense, but we've got to get going, and that obviously includes our line as well.
"If there's only one line going that night, then they've got to score two. They've got to score three, and we certainly had our chances to do that."
Chances didn't equate to goals — or a win — on Saturday.