DETROIT — Urgency, emotion and a balanced effort resurfaced and resulted in 47 shots on goal Sunday, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Kings from losing for the fourth time in five games.
A mere 4.5 seconds away from overtime — with at least one prized road point within easy reach — the Kings faltered and the puck trickled ever so slowly behind goalie Jonathan Quick into the net, and Detroit left with a 3-2 victory.
Soft goal? Indeed.
"Need to make a save there," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said.
The sight of last season's playoff MVP giving up that kind of goal has been limited. And it came after the Kings had seized and neatly wrapped up the momentum when defenseman Alec Martinez tied the score, 2-2, on a rebound with 52.8 seconds to play.
The game-winning goal came from Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, from inside the right point, after some heads-up play from teammate Danny Cleary down low in the corner.
"I was on the right side of Cleary and Cleary was coming to the net. Ericsson shoots it to the left side of him," Quick said. "So as you're coming across, you lose it for a brief second and I wasn't able to make the save."
Ericsson praised Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 45 saves and recorded his second win in two days. The other Kings goal came from Anze Kopitar, on a rebound, late in the first period after the Red Wings had taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner.
Datsyuk's came on the power play 5 minutes 44 seconds into the game, with his usual flair as he played the puck off his skate to his stick, off a slick pass from Henrik Zetterberg. He split the defense — the Kings' Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov — and beat Quick up high on the glove side.
As for Ericsson, the 28-year-old Swede provided a humorous moment afterward when he told reporters that one of the on-ice officials greatly appreciated the timing of his goal.
"One of the linesmen was thanking me," Ericsson said. "He said, 'Oh, thank you so much. I really had to go pee.'"
Here's to the assist of the afternoon at Joe Louis Arena . . .
Until he scored, the Kings had been dominating, turning in their best effort in weeks. In fact, Kopitar took it another step.
"It's a short season and we can't hang our head. . . . You can't look back, you've got to look ahead," he said of the loss.
"I would say, arguably, that was our best game this year. If we play like this, I think there's a good chance we're going to win more games than we're going to lose."
Kings defenseman Keaton Ellerby, acquired in a trade with Florida on Friday, was paired with Drew Doughty and logged a shade over 18 minutes of ice time.
Sutter tinkered with the lines and the benefits were evident. Kopitar centered Simon Gagne and Dustin Brown, and Sutter thought it was the first time this season that Kopitar showed some bounce in his game. Brown had seven shots on goal, equaled only by teammate Justin Williams, who played on a line with Kyle Clifford, centered by Jeff Carter.
Center Colin Fraser was a healthy scratch for the first time this season, and Brad Richardson got back in the lineup. The other scratches were left wing Dustin Penner and defenseman Jake Muzzin.
"Let's just say we haven't been playing our best hockey in some time," Brown said. "You say at the end of losing streaks and at the end of winning streaks, sometimes you are losing games you shouldn't and sometimes you're winning games you shouldn't as well.
"That was probably our best 60 minutes in some time. Now we've got to forget about the last 10 seconds and we've got a game tomorrow."
AT ST. LOUIS
When: 5 PST.
Where: Scottrade Center.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 1150.
Record vs. St. Louis (2011-12): 3-1-0.
Update: The Blues activated goalie Jaroslav Halak from injured reserve Sunday, and he is expected to start against the Kings.