The Los Angeles Kings enter Tuesday’s visit to the Chicago Blackhawks with a hold on a playoff spot in the Pacific Division, although the perch is getting precarious.
Despite squandering a 3-0 lead in Sunday’s 6-3 road loss to Minnesota, Los Angeles (38-26-10, 86 points) enters Monday in third place in the division, four points behind the Edmonton Oilers and two ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights, who each have played one fewer game.
“They’re good teams. They’re fighting for playoffs, too,” Kings forward Phillip Danault said. “We’ve got to regroup here and make sure we’re ready for the next game, and we can’t put our heads down too much. It’s hard enough, but we’ve got to find ways.”
Los Angeles has lost three straight as it faces Chicago (24-37-11, 59 points) in the second game of a three-game road trip that concludes Wednesday at Western Conference-leading Colorado.
Tuesday brings a prime opportunity to earn a much-needed two points against a Blackhawks club that is 0-5-2 in its past seven games.
Then again, Minnesota had lost two in a row (0-1-1) coming into Sunday and had fallen behind the Kings 3-0 just 10:17 into the game. Los Angeles, however, was unable to sustain the early scoring flurry from Rasmus Kupari, Carl Grundstrom and Adrian Kempe.
“You score a power-play goal, you score a short-handed goal, you get a 3-0 lead on the road, there’s no reason why you’re not in it at the end of the night, and we weren’t,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Really disappointing.”
Chicago also surrendered a half-dozen goals in its most recent game, Sunday’s 6-4 home loss to the Dallas Stars.
Goaltender Kevin Lankinen yielded five goals on 20 shots in the first two periods. Collin Delia stopped nine of 10 shots in the third.
Blackhawks coach Derek King acknowledged the switch in net merely reflected that Chicago “needed something to change” in the hopes of challenging the Stars, who led 5-3 after 40 minutes.
“Overall, I thought we competed much better,” King said. “We had some chances, we just couldn’t score. I’m sure we could have used a couple of stops here and there. I’m sure the goalies feel the same way. I’ll never throw goalies or anything (under the bus). We need to be better in front of them, I guess, and clean up some of the mess.”
The visiting Blackhawks topped the Kings 4-3 in a shootout on March 24, marking Chicago’s most recent victory.
“I think we’re all competitors and we want to finish out the season strong,” Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said. “Even though we’re out of the playoffs, just try to come in with an open mindset and compete every night. For the most part, I thought we played OK tonight. Just a couple breakdowns.
“I think there’s always a reason to play and be competitive. You’re always playing for something, pride or creating a good impression for yourself personally and for this group we have. We can take that and try to keep building on it, but it would definitely be nice to mix in a win here.”
The Kings and Blackhawks will conclude the season series on April 21 in Los Angeles.
–Field Level Media