LOS ANGELES -- Three shots on goal.
That was the grand total for the Kings during the second period Saturday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, their lowest output for a period this season.
The second period also proved to be the turning point in the game, as the Blackhawks claimed a lead they never relinquished, paving the way for a 2-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.
It’s the sixth loss in the last seven games for the Kings, who fell out of the top eight in the Western Conference standings just two weeks after being on top.
“In the second half, we just kind of backed off,” said Dustin Brown, who had moved from right wing to the left side to try and spark the top scoring line. “A team like that’s not going to give you chances. You’ve got to work and we didn’t work hard enough.”
Chicago had played the day before in a 4-1 victory at Anaheim, and the Kings looked like the fresher team at the start, holding the puck for the first minute of the game and generating a number of good scoring chances while outshooting Chicago, 9-7, in the first 20 minutes.
They even began the second period with all but one second remaining on a two-minute power play but could generate only one shot against Chicago goalkeeper Corey Crawford, who was also playing for the second consecutive day.
“We just let up a little bit and they took advantage of it,” said Anze Kopitar, who scored the Kings only goal on a 5-on-3 power play with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Kopitar and Brown credited Chicago with getting in the way of shots, but the Blackhawks blocked only 14 compared to 13 for the Kings. A more telling statistic was the differential in giveaways. The Kings had 22, the Blackhawks nine.
After a stretch in which the Kings gave up 25 goals in six games, they improved in that area, but took a step back in their offensive play.
“We weren’t getting in the dirty areas, we weren’t getting to the net, we weren’t playing strong,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who was on the ice for both of Chicago’s goals. “That was the one thing coached has harped on all season is just getting pucks to the net.”
Chicago showed it knows how to play with a lead, but Doughty said the Kings never should have been in the position of playing catch-up during the second half of the game.
“We just have to put the onus on ourselves," he said. "As good as Chicago is, I think we’re still we’re still a better team than them.”