So much for all that extra elbow room, that additional breathing room in the Pacific Division.
Suddenly, things have gotten tight and tense — take your pick — between the Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes in the race for third place.
After a wild third period, the Coyotes emerged with a 4-3 victory over the Kings on Monday night at Staples Center, and pulled to within five points of them in the Pacific.
The Kings led, 3-2, going into the third period and this was the first time all season they have blown such a lead. They were 21-0-0 when leading after two periods, and a Kings' victory would have pushed their lead over Phoenix to nine points.
The top three teams in each division are guaranteed to make the postseason.
"We're trying to make the playoffs, I'm not a philosopher," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of the race.
There was a strange finish to this one and it involved video review. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looked to make what appeared to be a spectacular save on forward Jeff Halpern and play continued and Quick then made another tough stop.
But Halpern's shot had crossed the goal line, which was picked up on at least one replay. It had not been an outnumbered attack but Halpern managed to spin away and found plenty of room on the left wing and launched his shot from the base of the left circle.
The league's situation room in Toronto explained the sequence of events on its blog: "At 17:20 of the third period in the Phoenix Coyotes/Los Angeles Kings game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Los Angeles goal. Video review determined that Jeff Halpern's shot at 16:55 completely crossed the goal line.
"According to Rule 38.6: 'In the event that a video replay shows a goal was scored prior to the play being stopped, the Video Goal Judge will inform the Game Timekeeper and Official Scorer of the time and the amount of playing time left to be reset on the game clock and penalty time clocks (if applicable).'"
The goal came with 3:05 remaining in the game and it was Halpern's fourth of the season, assisted by Coyotes captain Shane Doan and Kyle Chipchura. Phoenix had tied the score, 3-3, on Keith Yandle's unassisted goal at 9:44. Quick, who did not play in Saturday's loss to the Ducks because of illness, did not appear to be screened on the play.
Quick was tough on himself, saying he had to be better: "I thought we played well enough. I don't think I played well enough. You give up four goals and you're going to lose games."
This was the third straight loss for the Kings, who had come out of the Olympic break with eight straight victories.
"I think we could have been a little more desperate on those two goals they scored in terms of making plays in our own zone," Sutter said. "There haven't been back-to-back games where we've done that ... basic checking mistakes in our zone. I thought we did a pretty good job in being able to come back, so it's disappointing to make those errors in the third."
The Kings have gone into lockdown mode when holding a lead going into the third period and it looked like more of the same when they went ahead late in the second on the power play after Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone went off for holding.
Kings center Anze Kopitar set up linemate Marian Gaborik in the slot with a backhander from the right wing, and Gaborik wasted no time with the quick shot, beating Mike Smith.
This put the Kings up 3-2 as they had fallen behind 2-0 in the opening 7:36.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene, who has been a healthy scratch, returned to action for the first time since Feb. 26.
Dustin Brown was out again but he was not expected to play. It is more likely he will return to action on Thursday. Brown has been dealing with illness but it was also revealed on Sunday after practice that he has been injured. His lower-body injury is not believed to be serious.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun