LOS ANGELES -- The Kings couldn’t put a Band-Aid on this one.
With injuries mounting and more inexperienced players filling the voids, the Kings suffered another letdown Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, blowing a third-period lead and losing their second consecutive game, 5-3, at Staples Center.
“A couple of those goals looked pretty easy for them, and that’s really out of character,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “When we have a one-goal lead in the third period like that, that’s something we’ve been able to shut down and do the right thing the rest of the game to maintain that lead and win the game.”
With defenseman Willie Mitchell and defense-minded forward Alexei Ponikarovsky out because of injuries since Nov. 6, and left wing Scott Parse set to undergo hip surgery next week, the Kings have had to rely on players that would be better served honing their skills at the American Hockey League level.
Jake Muzzin was called up after Mitchell went on injured reserve because of a fractured wrist and Murray singled out him and defensive partner Davis Drewiske for their poor play against the Blue Jackets.
"They need to be better," Murray said.
It was Drewiske who was burned on the goal by Rick Nash that broke a 3-3 tie with 3 minutes 12 seconds remaining. Nash then added an empty-netter in the final minute for the two-goal cushion.
“On a couple of those goals we were just a little too far away from our coverage,” Murray said. “We didn’t close fast enough, or we're just unaware of who we needed to pick up off that rotation.”
Kings forward Trevor Lewis, another youngster who is trying to fit into the lineup, was a minus-three for the game. Dwight King, who was making his NHL debut in place of Parse, also looked lost at times.
But the letdowns were not limited to the rookies.
Anze Kopitar was a minus-three, as was defenseman Jack Johnson for the second consecutive game. Dustin Brown also missed a couple of good scoring chances early and several times looked unsteady on his skates.
Probably the most telling statistic of how hard each team played was in the blocked shots. Columbus had 23 and the Kings 12.
“We don’t like the way we’ve played here now in the last couple games,” Murray said.
If the Kings are to right themselves, they'll have to do it on the road as they head out on a four-game trip beginning Friday in Buffalo.