Daily News Predators hand Kings their 10th loss in 11 games

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LOS ANGELES — Needing to shake off the doldrums after a dreary 10-game stretch, including a just-completed 1-5 road trip, the Kings could not find their form in front of a less-than-enthused crowd on Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena, losing to the Nashville Predators, 2-1.

All three goals came in the second period, when the teams traded scores. Ryan O’Reilly and Gustav Nyquist connected for the visitors, sandwiching the Kings’ only highlight on a Drew Doughty power-play goal.

Hours after Kings general manager Rob Blake gave Coach Todd McLellan a vote of confidence amid their slump, some of the same issues that have defined the recent slump showed up again. The Kings played better at even strength through the first half of the game, only for their special teams to give away that momentum.

The Kings took seven shots against Predators netminder Juuse Saros in the opening five minutes. Then they managed just one more over the next 15 minutes, falling short on two power-play opportunities while killing a pair for Nashville.

Receiving the start over All-Star Cam Talbot, David Rittich held Nashville scoreless with 11 first-period saves, denying a good look on a wrist shot by Denis Gurianov, who got behind the Kings’ defense, and a couple minutes later keeping his cool as Juuso Parssinen whirled around to try a 360-degree spinning wrist shot.

The Kings’ lone attempt on goal after their early flurry came with less than two minutes remaining in the period. Leading goal scorer Taylor Moore found the puck in front of the Nashville net, but wristed it above the crossbar.

That’s how it went as passes, shots and connections missed their mark. When potentially dangerous attacks did materialize, the Kings were sufficiently rebuffed.

Outside of one power-play effort in the third period and a frantic final minute trying to beat Saros, who saved 33 of the 34 shots he faced, the Kings gave their fans more reasons to jeer than cheer their first home match since Jan. 4.

O’Reilly put the Predators on the board with a rare power-play goal against the strongest penalty-killing team in the NHL. The Kings had denied their opponents’ 22 man-advantage opportunities since the start of the new year until defenseman Roman Josi fired the puck at the net and O’Reilly tipped it in at 7:56 for his 17th goal of the season.

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The Kings (21-13-8, 50 points) asserted themselves less than a minute later when Doughty’s one-timer slap shot zoomed past Saros’ glove hand, cashing in a much-needed power play after Nashville defenseman Ryan McDonagh was hit with a delay of game when the Predators’ net was dislodged as the Kings threatened in the crease.

Doughty’s 10th goal of the season, assisted by Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe, followed his 150th goal for the Kings on Tuesday night in Dallas, inching the ironman closer to Rob Blake’s franchise record for a defenseman (161).

Rittich (31 saves on 33 shots) stayed strong between the pipes despite conceding a rebound goal to center Gustav Nyquist at 13:40 of the second period. The Swede’s 12th goal put the visitors in front to stay.

Coming off a 4-1 loss to Las Vegas, Nashville (25-19-1, 51 points) entered the game with the third-most points in the NHL since mid-November. The Predators have suffered only three regulation losses to the Kings in their last 27 meetings, taking 12 of the last 15 between the two.

More to come on this story.

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