LOS ANGELES--On a night in which Jeff Carter scored his first two goals for the Kings, Mike Richards matched his season-high with three assists and Dustin Brown continued his post-trade deadline scoring tear, L.A. wasn’t about to let this must-win get away.
Instead of digging in their skates and forming a defensive shell in the closing minutes of a one-goal game Saturday night at Staples Center, they mounted an attack on the visitor’s net, finishing off the game and possibly Anaheim’s playoff hopes with a 4-2 victory.
“The best way to fend off, especially in a desperate game, is to try and play in the offensive zone,” Brown said. “It just wears on their top players ... They don’t have enough energy, hopefully, to mount a comeback.”
A game after totaling a season-low 16 shots on net in a 4-0 victory Tuesday in Minnesota, the Kings were sitting on 14 shots on goal with just over seven minutes remaining against Anaheim. In a 21-second span, however, Richards, Dwight King and Carter shot the puck at Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller and maintained the offensive-zone pressure until Anze Kopitar salted the win with an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
“That’s the best defense right there,” said defenseman Matt Greene.
The Kings have been one of the best in the league at holding leads in the third period. They improved to 80-0-6 over the last 86 games when taking a lead into the final frame.
More recently, they’ve become solid on the power play too, scoring two more with the man advantage to improve to 16-for-64 on the power play (25 percent) since the third period of a Jan. 9 game against Washington.
Even better, the league’s lowest-scoring team won two straight with at least four goals for the first time this season. Carter and Richards had a big hand in that.
“Our line as a whole really came together tonight,” Carter said. “We went on the forecheck and won some battles and created some opportunities.”
Now the Kings are off on a four-game road trip beginning Tuesday against the Predators, where they’d like to make amends for their 2-1 loss in Nashville last week. They’re one point out of eighth place with 17 games remaining and three points back of Western Conference-leading Phoenix, which lost to last-place Columbus earlier in the day.
As for the Ducks, well, they might be left looking ahead to next season and looking back on their disastrous start to this season. Despite an incredible run over the last two months, they’re still seven points back of eighth place Dallas with 16 games left on the schedule.
“We certainly put ourselves behind the eight-ball the way we started the season,” said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. “Even with the run we’ve gone on in the last couple months, the Western Conference is so tight it’s tough to make up any ground. We’ve got a lot of teams playing well right now and it’s just a logjam for that eighth spot.”