ST. LOUIS — Their swagger had already taken hits before the Christmas break and now the Kings' once-supreme self-confidence has absorbed blow after blow.
And now, the Kings' confidence has gone missing in the locker room and on the ice during a five-game losing streak. The dismal state of affairs was underlined by a 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter pulled rookie goalie Martin Jones in the second period after the Blues' second goal at 11 minutes 41 seconds and replaced him with Ben Scrivens, who gave up a goal on the first shot he faced and let in two more goals in the third period.
It is the first time the Kings have lost five straight games in the Sutter era, and they've failed to score in two of their last three games. Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who faced 30 shots, recorded his third shutout of the season.
The Kings went 0-4 on this trip and the Blues were supposed to serve as a turning point, not the low point. St. Louis was without leading scorer Alex Steen (concussion) and captain David Backes (upper-body injury). That is 40 goals missing from the lineup but newly minted U.S. Olympian T.J. Oshie scored twice for the Blues.
"There's not really much to say about tonight's game," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We played bad and we need to turn it around. I think we're down on ourselves and we can't be.
"We need to pick ourselves up. We need to get that confidence back. When our team is playing with confidence — throughout the whole lineup — we're an amazing team."
Doughty gave the most direct assessment of the team's woes. "We've got to remember that [confidence]," he said. "We're playing like we're scared out there. We're scared to try things. We're scared to do the right things and that's why we're losing and that's why we got smoked tonight."
Taking a rash of ill-advised penalties has been a trademark of this trip. Defenseman Matt Greene received a double minor for high-sticking less than two minutes into the game.
"That's a bad penalty," Sutter said. "They took more penalties than us but the bottom line is that it's a four-minute penalty. We had it [almost] killed and it's a bad goal.
"At some point, your goaltenders have to be good penalty killers too. That's two in two games — where we've basically killed it — and the puck is off the back of the boards."
Said Kings center Anze Kopitar, of the penalties: "Usually on a goal like we got scored on tonight, on the first one, you just can't take them. That's the bottom line."
Said Sutter: "I'm not into the high-low stuff, the yelling, screaming part of it. But there is a leadership part of it that has to have full direction in it."
Meanwhile, the scheduled minor league rehabilitation assignment of goalie Jonathan Quick was called off because of bad weather in the Midwest and East, according to Rob Blake, the Kings' assistant general manager.
Quick, who has been with the Kings on this trip, was to have joined the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs, starting Friday in Binghamton, N.Y.
"I don't think you can judge anything until Quick's back in," St. Louis Coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Kings. "I think you can judge it then from their standpoint."