Eight years ago, the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils were on their way to meeting in the Stanley Cup Final.
Now they are at the bottom of their respective conferences, frequently encountering struggles in the third period and ranking among the lowest-scoring teams in the league.
Only one of the teams will get the two points that come with a win Saturday night when New Jersey hosts Los Angeles in Newark, N.J.
Since losing in six games to the Kings in June of 2012, the Devils have made the playoffs only once, losing in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round in 2018. They have finished last in their division three times, and their 48 points this season are the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.
New Jersey’s 146 goals are third-to-last in the East, and the team is 17-5-10 in games in which it has led or been tied after two periods. The Devils have been outscored 64-42 in the third period, with the latest third-period collapse occurring Tuesday when they squandered a three-goal lead and settled for a point in a 5-4 shootout home loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
New Jersey got a reprieve from its struggles Thursday when it posted a 5-0 win in Philadelphia, despite getting outshot 46-19, including 20-4 in the third period.
MacKenzie Blackwood made 46 saves, while Blake Coleman scored 13 seconds into the game and Damon Severson added a power-play goal 1:38 into the second. Miles Wood scored twice, and Pavel Zacha also tallied as the Devils posted their most lopsided win of the season.
“We didn’t give up any easy offense tonight,” Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine said. “There were no odd-man rushes, we kept a lot of the stuff to the outside. They got a lot of tips around our net or high in the slot, which are tough to defend at times, but Blackie was able to make saves.”
The Kings have experienced more success since winning their first Stanley Cup, as they won a second championship two years later by beating the New York Rangers in five games. They made two more playoff appearances after the second title but appear headed for a second straight last-place finish in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles is 17-5-4 in games when it has led or been tied after the second period, and the Kings have been outscored 61-45 in the third period.
The latest instance occurred Thursday in a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn, when the Kings allowed three goals in the final 20 minutes after taking leads of 2-0 and 3-1. Thursday’s collapse gave Los Angeles a three-game losing streak and dropped it to 1-7-1 in its last nine games and 4-13-2 in its last 19.
“We’ve got to learn to play with the lead,” Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez said. “You have to keep making plays. We can’t afford to blow leads like that.”
The Devils have won three of the past four meetings, but Los Angeles posted a 5-1 win in New Jersey on Feb. 5, 2019.
–Field Level Media