LOS ANGELES—At the end of Monday’s post-game press conference by Kings coach Terry Murray, which followed his team’s 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Staples Center, he was asked about his decision to move left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky off the top line in the third period.
Murray’s answer was short, but there was nothing missing in the meaning.
“Maybe I waited too long,” he said before strolling out of the half-empty room.
That could be the adage for the Kings’ season if they don’t right their listing ship.
They fell to 1-5 on the current eight-game home stand, a stretch that was expected to give them momentum heading into a 10-game road trip that will take up most of February.
Instead, the Kings now sit in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, with the five teams directly in front gaining ground with victories in recent days. The players kept the doors shut to the locker room for an extended period following the game. According to some, the dialogue wasn’t pretty.
“It’s a missed opportunity on this whole home stand now,” said veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi. “We were looking at this on the schedule and we thought this would be a chance to move up, give ourselves a chance to solidify ourselves, maybe even move into the top four.
“We’re going to hit the road the whole month of February. If we don’t turn it around and start playing with consistency, everything we worked for in the last two years, it’s not going to pay off.”
Toronto came into the game in worst shape than the Kings, sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference standings. The Kings scored first for the fifth time on the home stand and out-shot their opponent in the opening period for the sixth straight game, but again got caught flat-footed in the second and gave up two goals in 34 seconds and never led again.
“We’ve got to play the full 60 [minutes],” said Dustin Brown, repeating a phrase that has been heard too often this season. “We started good and then got away from things that made us successful.”
At one point this season, the Kings were off to their best start in franchise history. Now they’re on track to have one of the most disappointing finishes in recent memory.
“It’s not complicated, it has to come from in here,” Scuderi said of the locker room. “We have the system, we have the personnel, but right now there’s a lack of accountability from guy to guy.”
Murray was informed during the press conference that some players had raised the accountability issue. He responded with a terse warning that any player raising such complaints should make sure to back it up with their play.
At this point, those players are hard to find.