(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Los Angeles Kings will try to pick up just their second win in seven games when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in Monday's battle at Staples Center.
The Kings have not been playing like defending Stanley Cup champions during what has been a difficult start to the 2014-15 season and the club is just 1-2-3 over its last six games. That includes an 0-1-2 start to a seven-game homestand which has dropped Los Angeles' record as the host to 14-5-4.
L.A. lost a 5-4 shootout decision Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets, who moved one point ahead of the Kings for the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening seven minutes of the first period, but the Kings cut the deficit to one by the end of the opening stanza. L.A. grabbed a 4-3 lead with third-period goals from Marian Gaborik and Kyle Clifford, but Zach Bogosian would score with 5:56 remaining in regulation to eventually send the game to overtime.
Bryan Little then scored the lone shootout goal to award the extra point to the Jets.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick allowed Winnipeg to score three times on its first three shots of the game, but he rebounded to stop 21-of-22 shots the rest of the way. Quick also made an incredible sprawling save, falling backward with his left hand stopping a shot from Mathieu Perreault in the second round of the shootout.
However, Little beat the Kings netminder when he scored the only goal of the shootout in the fourth round. Little's wrist shot found the right side of the net before Kings forward Mike Richards missed the net on his attempt to extend the shootout.
Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams joined Clifford and Gaborik as the goal- scorers for L.A., which went 2-for-6 on the power play.
"Everyone individually has to step up, myself included," Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. "We all have to take a little more ownership in our game, and play Kings' hockey. I'm confident this team will be successful if we do that. If we keep on digging ourselves in a hole in the first period like we've been doing, and giving up as many goals as we have been, it's going to be pretty difficult on us."
Kings forward Tanner Pearson left the game late in the second period with a lower body injury after he was driven into the boards by Jets defenseman Jay Harrison. Pearson, who has 12 goals and four assists in 42 games this season, suffered a fractured fibula and is out indefinitely. Fellow forward Tyler Toffoli also will miss a second straight game with mononucleosis.
Quick is expected to start tonight for the Kings. He is 2-2-1 with a 2.74 goals against average in five career games against the Maple Leafs.
Former L.A. netminder Jonathan Bernier earned a victory with just 18 saves on Friday to help Toronto halt a three-game skid with a 5-2 win over visiting Columbus. It was just the third win in the last 11 games for the Leafs, who are 1-1-0 since firing head coach Randy Carlyle and replacing him on an interim basis with Peter Horachek.
James van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist to help the Maple Leafs down the Blue Jackets. Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Daniel Winnik each registered a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs.
"I thought there was a clear focus yesterday and clear focus this morning. I felt it," Horachek said.
Kessel played in his 406th consecutive game, the second-longest games played streak in Maple Leafs history. Tim Horton owns the record at 486.
Toronto, which is three points out of a playoff spot in the East, is hoping Friday's win can give the club confidence as it begins a road-heavy part of the schedule. Beginning with tonight's tilt in the City of Angels, the Maple Leafs are playing four straight and nine of its next 11 games on the road.
The Leafs are 15-9-0 at Air Canada Centre this season compared to a 7-8-3 mark on the road. The swing will continue Wednesday in Anaheim.
Bernier is 0-1-0 with a 3.83 GAA in his career against the Kings and it's uncertain if he will get the call against his former club tonight. Backup James Reimer boasts a lifetime 3-0-1 record and 1.83 GAA versus L.A.
Reimer earned the win when Toronto notched a 4-3 shootout win over a visiting L.A. team on Dec. 14. It was the second straight win over L.A. for the Maple Leafs, who are 3-1-1 in the last five matchups in this series.
Toronto has claimed the past three encounters at Staples Center.