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Kings’ 4-game win streak ends as Predators stifle them

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LOS ANGELES — It was pinball hockey on Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena.

Neither the Kings nor the Nashville Predators seemed to have a firm grasp of the puck, which careened off skates, sticks and players on a night when teams battling for a playoff spot might have hoped for more.

The Predators (30-25-2, 62 points) inched closer to their hosts in the Western Conference playoff race, besting the Kings (28-17-10, 66 points), 4-1, to take the three-game season series with a pair of wins in L.A. and a home loss at the end of January.

Nashville didn’t get a shot on goal for nearly six minutes.

The Kings, who saw their four-game winning streak end while losing for just the second time in seven games under interim coach Jim Hiller, endured a drought of nearly seven minutes.

With things not clicking on either side, the Predators took advantage of a pass that had been knocked down in the Kings’ zone when Colton Sissons fed the puck to Yakov Trenin, who was well-positioned for a first-time slap shot from the right circle.

Rittich appeared to have the angle covered, so Trenin continued skating across the face of the goal and switched to the backhand for his ninth goal of the season at 8:47 of the first period while Rittich looked stuck in concrete.

The Kings got back into the game late in the period while working a two-man advantage following high stick and tripping penalties against Nashville.

At 19:07, Anze Kopitar’s 29th assist of the season found Kevin Fiala, who snapped off a shot from the high slot to beat Juuse Saros on the glove side for his 15th goal of the campaign.

Drafted in the first round by Nashville in 2014, the power-play goal marked the 400th NHL point for the winger, though he wasn’t very interested in celebrating being the fourth Swiss-born player to reach that marker.

“Overall, passing-wise, it just wasn’t our style,” Fiala said. “Not much energy from us like we usually have. Not a good night for us.

“We didn’t skate that much. We didn’t skate onto pucks. We didn’t play fast. Too much slowing down the game. And in the O-zone we didn’t go side-to-side and low-to-high. We didn’t go to net. I think the goalie saw way too many pucks. We didn’t shoot too many pucks. We tried to pass it and it wasn’t there. In situations like this tonight we need to be a little bit more straightforward and it will open up.”

Nashville continued to hold the Kings down before regaining the lead at 14:46 of the middle period.

From the right boards, Lucas Evangelista threw the puck directly down the goal line. It clanged off the post and settled underneath Rittich, who couldn’t locate it before Mark Jankowski poked in his second goal in seven games this season.

Operating on a penalty kill, the Kings had a great opportunity to level the score with less than two minutes remaining in the second. But Trevor Lewis failed to get off a quality attempt as he appeared to be of two minds while Blake Lizotte, who returned after missing 14 games with a leg injury, trailed nearby in a two-on-none situation.

Coming off a goal-of-the-year candidate in his last game, Quinton Byfield was mostly bottled up by the Predators, yet the young forward, who joined Pierre-Luc Dubois and Lizotte on the third line, had a good chance midway through the last period.

After blocking a shot with his midsection, Byfield snatched the puck and raced the other way. Saros, however, snatched Byfield’s shot out of the air for one of his 27 saves.

“We’re all really connected and made their game as hard as we could,” Saros said. “I feel like we didn’t give them much time and space. We were always really quick to get the puck back.”

The tight contest slipped away from the Kings after Rittich, who denied 17 of the 19 shots he faced, was pulled with more than three minutes remaining in the third following an icing call on Nashville.

The Kings took a flier against the visitors’ tired legs but it didn’t work.

Empty-net goals at 17:00 by Sissons (his 15th of the season) and by Jeremy Lauzon (his sixth) at 19:07 made the scoreline look more lopsided than the game actually was.

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“We turned it over a few times in really tough spots,” Hiller said. “Neither team had a lot of chances. Their best chances came off our turnovers.

“They made it difficult. They really checked us. That wasn’t a surprise. Strong team. So they did a really nice job. Your execution has to be even a little bit better when you’re playing a team that checks you that well, and ours wasn’t. That made it doubly hard for us to get through that.”


The Kings had movement in and out of their forward lines, with Lizotte returning and forward Viktor Arvidsson out because of a lower-body injury after he got hurt during the win against Columbus on Tuesday.

Arvidsson was placed on injured reserve, but Hiller did not have an update on how long he might be out. Arvidsson, who missed the first 50 games of the season because of a back injury, had two assists in four games before he was sidelined again.

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