COLUMBUS, Ohio — Remember when the Kings were a wildly successful road team?
That time, most definitely, is not now.
Those days of November and early December seem long ago. They've lost eight of their last nine road games and the latest setback was a sloppy affair, riddled with breakdowns, and their once-formidable defensive structure has gone missing.
Columbus beat the Kings, 5-3, on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena as the Blue Jackets set a franchise record with their seventh straight victory. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who faced 29 shots, has won his last eight starts.
Scoring for the Kings were Dwight King (11th of the season), Jeff Carter (20th) and defenseman Robyn Regehr (first). RJ Umberger scored twice for the Blue Jackets.
Kings rookie goalie Martin Jones has lost his last four starts after winning his first eight. This, however, was his first start since the Kings brought him back from their minor league affiliate in Manchester, N.H., last week after the Ben Scrivens trade.
This was not his sharpest performance and he let in a particularly bad goal late in the second period. Umberger took the puck from defenseman Drew Doughty and scored from a sharp angle with a shot from the left-wing boards to make it 3-2 at 18:15, giving the Blue Jackets the lead for good.
"I was just trying to let it go wide and it just hit the bottom of my glove and bounced in there," said Jones, who faced 34 shots.
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: "Bad goal. You can't shoot from the wall. We had one in Boston and we had one tonight. Those are goalie saves."
The Blue Jackets added another goal with 15.6 seconds left in the period, extending the lead to 4-2.
"Right now, what's happened to us, we're doing what bad teams are doing," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We're allowing special-teams goals. We're allowing breakdown goals. When teams score goals against us, they need to earn them, and earn them heavily.
"We haven't done that lately. We've gotten away from that from it and it's cost us."
They stalled on the power play, going 0 for 3. The Blue Jackets were one for three. On Monday, the Kings gave up a power-play goal and a short-handed to the Bruins.
It sounded as though Sutter had at least contemplated calling up a defenseman from Manchester because the steady Matt Greene did not make the trip because of a concussion, which is his second of the season. But the Manchester option was not workable because of far-flung travel considerations.
But Sutter did insert two youngsters, left wing Tanner Pearson and center Linden Vey, in the lineup, taking out center Colin Fraser and a struggling Kyle Clifford. Pearson and Vey combined for three shots on goal.
What loomed larger for the Kings were missed defensive assignments. Columbus went up 2-1 at 19:02 of the first period when Ryan Johansen slipped behind Regehr but the breakdown started well before that with Kings forward Jordan Nolan.
"The breakaway goal, which is a play that starts behind their goalie. Jordie's got to have that," Sutter said. "That's a set play for us. Jordan's gotta have that.
"… Kids are kinda hitting the wall a little bit, young guys. Go through it."
Said Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski: "We're a blue-collar team. But we also have depth, speed, size."
The Kings' search for their blue-collar roots will resume back on the West Coast. They return to Southern California to play at Anaheim on Thursday, and this trip, which had started so well with a win at St. Louis, took a decided downturn after the blown call in Detroit on Saturday night.
"It got a little bit sloppy the last couple," defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "I don't know if Detroit took the wind out of our sails or what. We've got to get back to our basics which is a tight defensive team. When we do that we're usually pretty successful.
"We're pretty comfortable in those low-scoring games as you guys know."
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