LOS ANGELES -- Must-win accomplished.
The Kings entered their game Tuesday night against the visiting Red Wings with nothing more than two points on their minds. Then they put their thoughts to action, scoring a short-handed goal, one on the power play, two at even strength and an empty netter for good measure, lifting them to a 5-2 victory at Staples Center.
With the win, the Kings jumped one spot ahead in the Western Conference standings to 10th. Better yet, with 12 games remaining, the Kings moved into a four-way points-tie with eighth-place San Jose, ninth-place Colorado and 11th-place Calgary.
“We just have to worry about ourselves,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who had a goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating. “All that we can control is the games that we are winning and, hopefully, some other teams lose some for us.”
Along the mental lines, the Kings also needed to put to rest their devastating loss Friday in Detroit, when they let a one-goal lead slip away in the final five minutes and lost in regulation, 4-3. They did that by seizing control early. Justin Williams nudged a loose puck past the goal line just under seven minutes into the game, and Anze Kopitar scored a timely short-handed goal with 6:45 left in the opening period.
After blowing eight-one goal leads in the previous four games, including three in the loss in Detroit, the Kings didn’t flinch when the Red Wings pulled to within a goal early in the second period. Instead they took back the two-goal advantage on Doughty’s ninth of the season, a slap shot that deflected off Detroit defenseman Ian White and into the net with 9:03 left in the second period. The goal was originally awarded to Mike Richards, which would have ended a 25-game goal-scoring drought, but later given to Doughty.
“The key to this game was weathering their storm in the second,” said Dustin Brown, who had two assists to stretch his point streak to nine games, matching his career high. “They had some good pressure on us, and some good chances, but we found a way to play even through the second period and that’s huge against a team like that.”
Brown helped lead a massive 49-20 advantage in hits by delivering 10 on the Red Wings. That seemed to soften them up as the game wore on.
“You’ve got to find a way to slow them down and, one way, is just to get in front of them and bump them and rub them off,” Brown said. “Over the course of the game, it wears on them. I’m not sure if they’re used to getting bumped because they move the puck so well.”
The Kings kept the second-period momentum by killing off a short 5-on-3 power play by the Red Wings, and rookie defenseman Slava Voynov followed up with a power-play goal to extend the lead to 4-1 and give the crowd a chance to exhale.
“Killing off that 5 on 3 was a just huge momentum booster us for us,” Doughty said. “Getting that power play goal was huge as well.”
The Kings don’t play again until Friday night in Anaheim. In the meantime, Colorado has two games and San Jose and Calgary each play once. Getting some outside help this time of year would be huge too. The Kings will just have to sit back and cross their fingers.