10:53 PM CST, December 15, 2013
CHICAGO — All good things must come to an end, but the Kings' six-game winning streak didn't end well.
Their 3-1 loss to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center was sealed early, somewhere between the time a fired-up Jonathan Toews set up Marian Hossa's short-handed goal at 5 minutes 45 seconds — the first time the Kings had yielded a first-period goal in 19 games — and Kris Versteeg capped off a two-on-one with a shot that Ben Scrivens slowed but couldn't stop at 9:59.
"You can't chase the lead against a team that's, what, are they 30 or 40 goals ahead of everybody in the league?" Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said after his team ended a tough trip at 3-1-0. "It's pretty tough to chase the lead."
Especially when the Blackhawks were determined to atone for their ugly 7-3 loss Saturday at Toronto. Patrick Sharp's power-play goal from the right circle at 19:31, a chance created when Toews faked a shot but instead passed, effectively ended the Kings' winning streak and 8-0-2 road points streak in addition to representing the first time in 19 games they had given up more than two goals.
Only Alec Martinez's long shot with 3:54 left in the third period spared the Kings from being shut out by the team that beat them in last season's Western Conference final. Martinez's effort was the only shot by a Kings defensemen, a strategic failure.
"We didn't have the puck very much," Sutter said. "Most of those shots are standing-at-the-blueline plays or sneaking in, so we didn't have the puck much. You're not in their zone much so we weren't very effective."
That applied to everyone, not just the defensemen.
"We weren't ready to play, and that's unacceptable individually and collectively. It's over and it's a good learning lesson," team captain Dustin Brown said.
"The last few games we've been maybe not playing as sharp and tonight we played a team that takes advantage of it. When we start to see things slip in our game it's about correcting it before we lose a game."
They didn't do that Sunday.
"Three goals, it's quite a bit to overcome against that team," center Anze Kopitar said. "There's no secret that we lost the game in the first period."
Defenseman Willie Mitchell was ill and missed a game for the first time this season; his spot was taken by Matt Greene, who was activated off injured reserve last week following his recovery from an upper-body injury he sustained on Nov. 2.
The Kings felt Mitchell's absence on their penalty killing, but their power play let them down in the opening period.
Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya was in the penalty box when Toews outworked Jake Muzzin to win the puck behind the Kings' net and passed it in front to Hossa, who didn't miss from close range. That was the third short-handed goal scored against the Kings this season.
Versteeg, recently reacquired by the Blackhawks from Florida, increased Chicago's lead to 2-0. He broke in on the right side with Michal Handzus on a two-on-one and elected to shoot.
"He made a good shot. Obviously, two-on-ones are tough," said Scrivens, who had backed up rookie Martin Jones in the Kings' previous five games. "I've got to find a way to get a bit more of that one and give the guys a better chance."
Sharp ended the Kings' two-goals-against-or-fewer streak late in the first period, leaving in question only whether Chicago goalie Antti Raanta would get a shutout. Martinez took care of that.
In the end, it was no consolation to the Kings to lose to a powerful and powerfully motivated team. "We've got a good team in here, too," Scrivens said.
Not nearly good enough on Sunday to stave off a bad ending to all of those good streaks.
"Every time you lose the game you feel disappointed. It doesn't matter if you're on a streak or not," Kopitar said. "We're unhappy the way we started off and we've got to make sure that when we head home that's not going to be the case."
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times