LOS ANGELES — For 35 minutes, the Bruins took it to the mighty Kings. They played hard. They drew penalties. Patrice Bergeron even had a last-minute, six-on-five chance to tie the game that Jake Muzzin helped steer wide.
But the decaf that dragged down their game for the first 25 minutes was enough to sink the Bruins. The Kings scored twice in that stretch, then handed over the game to Jonathan Quick (27 saves), who backstopped his team to a 2-1 win over the Bruins at Staples Center on Saturday.
“We weren’t hard enough. We weren’t hard enough,” coach Claude Julien said of his team’s first-period snooze job. “Too many guys light on the stick, light in certain areas.
“If you want to play in this league, I expect guys to be capable. It’s not about being physical. It’s being capable of playing in those kinds of situations. Development league is in the American [Hockey] League. This is a league here where I expect players to be able to handle that. It was a good test for everybody. Unfortunately, we decided to show that we can from the second period on.”
The Bruins played their best hockey of the trip in the finale. They remain six points ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia and three ahead of Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division. After an overnight stay, the Bruins will fly back East on Sunday with tans on their faces but zero points to show for their week in California.
“At the end of the day, we’re going home empty-handed,” Julien said. “That’s not what we came here for. Maybe it was good that we showed we were capable of playing with these guys when we put our minds to it. Hopefully that’s a positive thing as far as growing with the team. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to be ready at the drop of the puck here.”
LA’s early dominance showed on the ice and on the scoresheet. The big and fast Kings were flying everywhere, especially on the walls, which they owned. After 20 minutes, the Kings held a 25-11 lead in attempted shots. They were ripping pucks on net from everywhere. Tuukka Rask literally felt the pain when an Alec Martinez shot from the point knocked the wind out of him at 17:30 of the first.
“It’s coming to a point where we really have to realize that the way we played the last two periods, we have to play a full 60 minutes from here on in,” Rask said. “That’s the only way we can get some success in this league and in the postseason.”
The Kings’ early muscle-flexing was compounded by the Bruins’ carelessness with the puck. Rask blunted all of the attacks, but he couldn’t do anything to stop LA’s first goal.
The play started when Torey Krug tried to track down a rim in the corner. Dustin Brown closed on Krug with a heavy forecheck. Krug hurried to get rid of the puck up the left-side wall to Tyler Randell, but Randell couldn’t handle Krug’s pass.
Vincent Lecavalier recovered the puck and got it to Luke Schenn at the right point, while Tanner Pearson set up in the high slot. Pearson tipped Schenn’s shot past Rask to give the Kings a 1-0 lead at 19:09 of the first.
The Kings doubled their lead at 2:40 of the second. Anze Kopitar protected the puck down low against Noel Acciari, then passed it up to Alec Martinez at the right point. After playing give-and-go with Jake Muzzin, Martinez buzzed a one-timer through a Kopitar screen that Rask never saw.
The Bruins, who had lost the night before to the Ducks, could have called it quits then. Instead, they woke up.
Acciari and the Bruins responded later in the second. Acciari battled Kopitar for the puck at the other end. Because of Acciari’s heavy stick, Kopitar coughed up the puck to Randell. The fourth-line wing snapped the puck past Quick at 5:46 to make it a 2-1 game.
“We moved the play forward instead of trying to bring it back,” Bergeron said. “They’re good on the forecheck. They were causing some turnovers against us by them moving their feet. After that, we just didn’t really try the hard play. We kept moving forward. We got in their zone and tried to create some chances from there.”
It was the only puck that Quick failed to stop. At 17:10 of the second, Quick punched out a short-range Brad Marchand shot with his blocker. Later in the period, Quick scrambled to get a piece of Loui Eriksson’s in-tight attempt. Quick saw 11 shots over four Boston power plays. He turned them all into nothing.
“We have to realize how big our next few games are,” Marchand said of a back-to-back set against the Rangers (Wednesday) and Panthers (Thursday). “Losing three games on this road trip is tough, especially when you look at how tight the standings are. We have to go home and make sure we have a big week.”
Video: Milan Lucic postgame comments