Colorado Avalanche players celebrate after David Jones' (54) third-period… (Barry Gutierrez / Associated…)
DENVER — One of the more enduring standards of excellence authored by the Kings fell by the wayside Tuesday night.
Fell? More like tumbled in the third period, gasping and wheezing in the early days of a lockout-shortened season.
The Kings had not lost in regulation when leading after two periods in 95 games, going back to April 2, 2009, at Phoenix. They'd been 86-0-9 in that situation since then.
Ninety-six was their undoing. The Colorado Avalanche erased a 1-0 deficit on the opening shift of the third period, grabbed the lead for good by the 2:35 mark on the power play, added another goal at 8:16 and held on for a 3-1 victory at Pepsi Center. The Kings' goal, in the first period, came from fourth-line forward Kyle Clifford, who crashed the net and scored on a rebound at 15:52.
The Stanley Cup champion Kings are 0-2. They are 0 for 11 on the power play this season, the scoring has been generated by the fourth line and one of their leaders and top penalty killers, defenseman Matt Greene, is scheduled to have back surgery Thursday for a herniated disk.
Just where was that DVD of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final again?
"We can't dwell on it, but we also can't forget about it," said Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
Scuderi, who was victimized on Colorado's first goal by forward Gabriel Landeskog a minute into the third period, was referring to the rare third-period collapse.
That goal tied the score, 1-1, and sent the Kings reeling.
"The shot [by Jan Hejda] went off the boards and I tried to turn my skate just to kick it back behind the net and I didn't get there in time," Scuderi said. "He [Landeskog] was right behind me to pounce on the shot to put it in.
"For 15 to 25 seconds, it's a shooting gallery. But that's my fault. I've got to have that presence of mind to take the man instead of trying to go for the puck."
He wasn't the only one victimized by Landeskog, who did just that to Dustin Penner on a play that led to Colorado's third goal.
The game marked the return of Kings center Anze Kopitar, who had suffered a sprained knee on Jan. 5 while playing in Sweden during the lockout. Kopitar, who had no shots on goal in nearly 20 minutes of ice time, reported that the knee felt fine.
Kopitar centered his usual linemates Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Brown and Williams are without a point in the first two games.
"I think the line had a really tough night," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "It was Kopi's first game but the other two have had two tough games in a row now. . . . I thought the kids on the back end were really good tonight. [Goalie] Jonathan [Quick] was a lot better. We need our top forwards to be a lot better."
Defenseman Drew Doughty played heavy minutes, logging 29 minutes 53 seconds of ice time. He'll likely continue to carry a heavy load in the absence of Greene and Willie Mitchell.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said again that Greene possibly could be out for three months. Sutter revealed that Greene had been having back issues in the off-season.
"He had trouble this summer," Sutter said after the morning skate. "And that's part of playing a long time, right? He had trouble with it and it acted up again. We've seen that with a handful of our players so far. It was diagnosed as a bulging disk this summer and he trained through it.
"It got better and it obviously got worse. He's the type of guy that's trying to play through things all the time. The surgery is probably similar to what Jonathan had at the outset.
". . . There's a healing process. And then there's a rehab process. That's where everybody is different."
Mitchell, who is with the team on this trip, had knee surgery during the lockout and only had his first full practice with his teammates on Monday.