A stoppable force met a movable object Monday at Staples Center.
For the uninitiated, that would be the free-falling Kings and their punchless offense against the struggling Chicago Blackhawks and their porous defense.
It was billed as a matchup of the last two Stanley Cup champions, though you couldn't have proven that by the way the teams have played lately, with the Kings averaging 1 1/2 goals a week and the Blackhawks having lost five of their last six.
But this being the NHL somebody had to win, and Chicago proved the best of the worst when Marcus Kruger's second-period slap shot from just inside the blue line struck the stick of defenseman Matt Greene and tumbled over the left shoulder of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, breaking a 2-2 tie and sparking the Blackhawks to a 5-3 win.
SUMMARY: Chicago Blackhawks 5, Kings 3
"We had a 2-2 game, we had the momentum," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Greener is trying to get out of the way … and it's a break like that that can change the game.
"But we also have a responsibility to kind of make our own breaks and that's how you get out of a slump. It's finding a way. It's easy to be good when things are going good. It's times like this that we have to come together and find a way to do it."
Nick Leddy scored what would prove to be the game-winner early in the third period, beating Quick on a one-timer from the high slot. Patrick Kane then tacked on an insurance goal midway through the period that became important when Tyler Toffoli closed the scoring for the Kings moments later.
The loss was the ninth in 10 games for the Kings but there was good news. With a first-period goal from Drew Doughty, one from Anze Kopitar in the second and Toffoli's in the third, the Kings had multiple scores for the first time since Jan. 21. And the three goals matched their total from the last six games combined.
But help may soon be on the way. The Kings have talked to the Edmonton Oilers about a trade that would bring center Sam Gagner to Los Angeles, although salary-cap issues could prevent a deal from getting done.
Gagner, who has scored at least 15 goals four times in the last five full seasons, may not be the solution to the Kings' problem all by himself. But he couldn't hurt since the team's slump shows no sign of abating on its own.
If fact, the Kings couldn't have gotten off to a worse start Monday, with Doughty getting sent off for charging 24 seconds after the opening faceoff. Less than a minute later Kane's first goal of the game, on a power play, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
The Kings didn't even get their first shot on goal until nearly eight minutes had passed. By the time they got their second it was 2-0 Blackhawks, with Bryan Bickell scoring off a Kane feed at the end of a three-on-one break.
For Kane the assist gave him as many points in the first nine minutes as any King had in the previous week. It also capped an emotional day with Kane learning that his grandfather, Donald Kane, died before the game.
"It was a tough day overall," Kane, in tears, said afterward. He was one of my great friends growing up. It was important to get the win, but any time you someone taken away from you, who's so close to you, who means so much, it's tough to get ready for the game."
Doughty quickly got that one back with a power-play goal of his own at 9:52 of the first period, blasting a huge slap shot past Corey Crawford from just outside the circle to the goalie's right. Even that only served to highlight how poorly the team has played lately, though, since it was the Kings' first goal since Jan. 21 by a player not named Kopitar.
The Kings showed some life early in the second period, peppering the Chicago net with a flurry of shots including a soft one that Kopitar slid between Crawford's legs for his 17th goal of the season -- and his fourth in seven games – to tie the score.
But Kruger, with some help from Greene, untied it seven minutes later, giving the Blackhawks a lead they never lost.
"We have a couple of guys that are frustrated with their own games," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "You've got to coach them up but they aren't young guys, they are veteran guys. They are having a hard time right now whether it's the schedule or just where are at with their own games.
"That's something they need to deal with themselves for sure."