Losing three straight in regulation to open the season didn't sting the Los Angeles Kings too badly, but doing it down the stretch is a far different story.
With the Pacific Division and Western Conference crowns still up for grabs, the Kings return home from a fruitless trip looking to turn things around Saturday night against an Edmonton Oilers team they have dominated this season.
After its 0-3-0 start, Los Angeles (44-25-5) had skated through five months without three consecutive regulation losses prior to this week. The club did drop three in a row Feb. 14-18 but salvaged a point with an overtime loss.
The division-leading Kings need all the points they can get right now to secure the Pacific, but a point-starved swing through Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg on which they were outscored 11-4 has kept Anaheim nipping at their heels.
The Ducks are three points back in the division but have lost two in a row to keep from overtaking Los Angeles, which has fallen four points back of the West lead after Dallas surged in front by winning three of four.
"You can't be losing three games in a row at any time throughout the season," said defenseman Drew Doughty, who assisted on Anze Kopitar's goal in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Jets. "It's really frustrating that we did this, and we need to fix things, like I said. And we need to get winning hockey games, because right now we're blowing our spot at the top of the division and near the top of the conference."
The only bright spot on the trip was that Kopitar's goal came on the power play, ending an 0-for-19 stretch with the man advantage. The Kings went seven straight games without a power-play goal for the first time since an eight-game drought Nov. 21-Dec. 7, 2013.
The 11 goals surrendered on the trip were certainly surprising for Los Angeles, which still leads the NHL with 2.28 allowed per game. The Kings had given up only 24 during the 11-2-1 stretch that preceded the slide - an average of 1.71.
"You can't give up three or four goals a game if you're not scoring," said center Jeff Carter, who had an assist Thursday but has no goals in eight straight games. "So we've got a lot of work to do. It starts from the top and trickles down and we've got to get going."
Except for the third period of Monday's 5-2 loss to the Predators, Jonathan Quick was in net the entire trip and posted a 3.01 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but he should get the nod considering his play against Edmonton.
The Oilers (30-40-7), tied for last in the West, have lost all four meetings with the Kings this season and Quick has been between the pipes for each with a 2.00 GAA and .935 save percentage. He's 13-0-2 with a 1.51 GAA in his last 15 games against them.
Edmonton helped keep the Pacific race from becoming even tighter Thursday by preventing San Jose from tying Anaheim with a 6-3 road win over the Sharks. San Jose held an early 2-0 lead before the Oilers rallied with four goals in the second.
"I challenged them and they came out in the second and responded well," said coach Todd McLellan, who was spared from watching his former club clinch a playoff berth.
Edmonton has lost eight straight in Los Angeles, getting outscored 30-9.