LOS ANGELES — They say a 2-0 lead, especially when you grab it in the first 3:14 of a hockey game, is the most precarious.
What do they say about a 9-0-1 start?
Last time you turned around, the Kings had finished a triumphant Eastern trip. Now they are 11-5-2, and they have lost three consecutive games, the past two coming at home to Pacific Division opponents.
The latest was Tuesday night, 3-2 at the hands of Vancouver, after the Kings had struck for two goals before the Staples Center crowd had opened its Popcornopolis bags.
The bags were over their heads by the end, as the Kings played a listless second period and then a frenzied third, without result.
“We quit playing our game after that start we had,” Alec Martinez said tersely. “They didn’t.”
The issue is whether the Kings can retain the kind of game that made them the final team in hockey to suffer a regulation loss.
Their top-ranked penalty kill gave up two goals, including the game-winner by Sven Baertschi. They blocked few shots, they suffered some alarming turnovers, they allowed the Canucks to assail Jonathan Quick with impunity, and they couldn’t capitalize on Alexander Edler’s late boarding penalty on Alex Iafallo.
Martinez hit the crossbar with one late shot and Adrian Kempe got stuffed by goalie Anders Nilsson at close range. But the game was really lost in the corners and along the boards, where the Canucks feasted on a lot of up-for-grabs pucks.
“One team wanted to forecheck, one team didn’t,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “We started turning some pucks over on what should have been some simple option plays, for about 30 minutes there.
“We’ve got lots of work to do. We had a lot of work to do when we were winning, so that hasn’t changed.”
The Canucks stabilized the game after Tanner Pearson scored, 21 seconds in, and then Anze Kopitar made it 2-0 on a power play. It gave Kopitar a career-high nine-game scoring streak.
The reason two-goal leads are so dangerous is the false sense of security they bring. It’s like a two-stroke lead in golf. It sounds like a cushion but one bad swing makes it disappear. The goal that makes it 2-1 can tilt the mentality of both teams.
Henrik Sedin got that 2-1 goal with a shot that ricocheted off Nick Shore and past Quick. That was hockey happenstance. But when the Canucks got a power play on Iafallo’s tripping penalty, Bo Horvat kept the puck in the Kings’ zone, and H. Sedin found rookie Brock Boeser, lonesome on…