December hasn’t been kind to the Los Angeles Kings.
After losing their final game of November, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have proceeded to drop three of their past four outings, allowing an uncharacteristic 17 goals against over that span and, most recently, watching as a 2-0 lead slipped away in a 6-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday evening.
For a Kings team that isn’t all that accustomed to losing, this has been a trying period, but it’s made even more difficult when the team is playing what center Jeff Carter called “terrible hockey.”
After Tuesday’s loss, Carter, 31, tore into his team and called out the way the entire team has been playing of late. Most notably, the Kings have dropped points to the Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes over their 2-3-1 stretch over the past two weeks, and Carter said a big reason for the losses is that the Kings can’t recover from suffering any bad breaks right now.
“We get a bad bounce and then we just [expletive] shut down,” Carter said, according to LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen. “It’s been going on for a while. Our second periods have not been good and they’ve been killing us. It’s everybody. It’s top to bottom. It’s unacceptable. You don’t make playoffs winning at home and then going on the road and [messing] the bed.”
Carter has a point, too. On the road, the Kings have been nothing short of disastrous, which makes the team’s inability to close out Tuesday’s game against the Sabres all the more concerning. Through 13 road games this season, Los Angeles has managed a mere 4-8-1 record, and the only teams who have fewer road victories are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders.
The problem Tuesday, Carter said, was that as soon as the Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly netted the goal to cut the Kings’ lead in half — which came two minutes after Carter scored to put Los Angeles up 2-0 — the team almost completely fell apart. O’Reilly’s goal was followed by three more unanswered tallies before Carter stopped the bleeding to pull the Kings back within one, but the Sabres capped the night with two more goals to skate to the win.
“They score one goal. We’re up 2-1,” Carter said. “2-1 on the road is pretty good and then we just crumble, and we’ve been doing it all year. Home, away, everywhere. It’s time we take a big look in the mirror here because these next (eight) games are pretty crucial to our year.”
And while Carter made a point of indicating that it comes down to everyone to turn things around, he might be the only player who can really be absolved of much blame. It goes beyond his two goals Tuesday night, too. Overall, Carter’s 14 goals are double that of Tanner Pearson's total, and he’s the second-highest goal scorer with seven on the season. Not only that, but Carter’s 24 points are eight more than the next-highest scorer, Tyler Toffoli, who has 16 points in 28 games.
Carter’s right that the Kings’ road woes could be a deciding factor when it comes to the way the rest of the campaign unfolds, too. With eight consecutive road games in the offing and Los Angeles tied for the final wild-card spot, the inability to pick up some wins and ensure they’re holding a playoff spot by the New Year could set the Kings up to miss the post-season for the second time in three years.
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