EDMONTON – A few weeks back, as the Kings removed their gear after a practice in El Segundo, post-practice chatter centered around goal celebrations, and who had the best.
Sean O’Donnell sat quietly for a while, then said, ``I don’t even remember my `celly.’’’
Now he does. In perhaps the most unlikely (and biggest) moment of the Kings’ season, O’Donnell scored a goal with 4:33 remaining in regulation to lift the Kings to a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night before 16,839 at Rexall Place.
Already without key players Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Wayne Simmonds, the Kings lost Jack Johnson to an ankle injury after the second period, then lost the 2-1 lead they carried into the final period when the Oilers scored 3:43 into the third.
To the rescue came O’Donnell, the 38-year-old defenseman who had gone 157 consecutive regular-season games without a goal. In fact, O’Donnell’s last two regular-season goals went into empty nets, so he actually hadn’t beat a goalie with a shot since Nov. 3, 2006, when his Anaheim Ducks beat Phoenix.
``It's the law of averages. If you get enough shots on net... ’’ O’Donnell joked.
Edmonton seems to do something special to low-scoring Kings defensemen. In the last Kings-Oilers game here, on Nov. 25, Matt Greene scored a goal late in the third period, his first goal of the season, to lift the Kings to victory.
This time, it was O’Donnell. After nice plays down low by Justin Williams and Alexander Frolov, Frolov fed the puck up top to O’Donnell, whose slap shot from the left side got through traffic and beat Jeff Deslauriers with 4:33 remaining.
``Our guys did a great job,’’ O’Donnell said. ``I don't even think their goalie saw it at all. He just went down and tried to cover it, and it snuck in the corner. Willie and Fro and Kopi, I don't know exactly who it was, but when I shot it, I could see that lane and I could tell he didn't see it at all. I just crossed my fingers that it didn't hit something. It was nice to get the two points tonight.’’
The Kings certainly did it the hard way, and for most of the game, they did it without Johnson, who took a hard shot from Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray off his ankle near the end of the first period.
Johnson attempted to play in the second period. He had two shifts early in the period and two shifts late, but didn’t return to the ice for the start of the third period.
After the game, coach Terry Murray said initial x-rays on Johnson’s ankle were inconclusive, and that Johnson would be evaluated again Wednesday.
``When you lose a player, the players in here don't really think about it,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said about being shorthanded in the third period. ``We had one period to play, 20 minutes, and everyone had to pull a little extra weight.’’
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been pulling more than a little extra weight of late. Quick was strong again Tuesday, as he stopped 27 of 29 shots and was named the game’s ``first star’’ by the Edmonton media.
Quick was at his best when the Kings had some defensive breakdowns, although he also got some help with one shot off the post and, later, a loose puck in the crease, behind the prone goalie, that Greene cleared out of danger.
``I felt like it was pretty similar to the last time we were up here,’’ Quick said. ``A good defensive battle, and each team had a few chances here and there. Our penalty kill and defensive play really stepped up, and we got a couple big goals. Sean O'Donnell ended up scoring the game-winner there.
``I don't think anyone had money on him scoring the game-winner, so it was a great team effort. A lot of character went into this win, because we had a few guys out of the lineup and we had some guys playing some big minutes down the stretch.’’
Stoll suffered a groin injury in Monday’s loss to Vancouver, so recent call-up Corey Elkins made his NHL debut as a part of a makeshift lineup.
The Kings killed all three Edmonton power plays, and got relatively big minutes from forwards such as Moller (11:25), Elkins (13:38) and Richardson (17:51), whose contributions helped the Kings take a 2-0 lead.
``A lot of guys stepped up here, big time,’’ Murray said. ``Guys who haven't played a lot of minutes so far this year, guys getting called up from the minors, played significant minutes and really did a great job. An excellent job on the penalty killing by a couple of guys. That's the way it is. That's what you have to have, whenever there is injuries.’’
The Kings took the lead early in the first period. Denis Grebeshkov's pass ended up on the stick of Brown, who carried the puck into the Oilers' zone and fed a nice pass across to Richardson. Richardson was able to steady the puck for a moment and then slip it past Jeff Deslauriers 5:29 into the first period.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead 3:44 into the second period. Handzus started the play with a strong cross-ice pass to Richardson, who went around Lubomir Visnovsky and carried the puck into the Oilers' zone. Richardson's shot was stopped, but the rebound came out hard and Brown knocked it in.
The Oilers pulled within one in the second period. Edmonton had been buzzing in the Kings' zone for a few minutes, and got rewarded when Ryan Potulny won a faceoff and got the puck back to Souray, whose rocket slap shot through traffic beat Quick with 7:43 left in the second period.
The Oilers tied the game 3:43 into the third period. Tom Gilbert made a strong pass to start a break, and Souray passed over to Potulny, whose one-time shot, all alone, from the middle of the right circle beat Quick.
The Kings did hard work down behind the Oilers' net, and got rewarded with the game-winning goal. Frolov fed the puck up to the blue line, and O'Donnell's slap shot through traffic found the net with 4:33 remaining in the third period.
``Obviously we had some guys coming in, playing some big minutes, that maybe aren't there normally,’’ Brown said. ``I thought Elkins played pretty physical, pretty solid, for his first game in the NHL. You've got everyone pitching in, and I thought our system play was really good tonight. It makes things a lot easier for us.’’
1 - 0 LAK
2 - 0 LAK
2 - 1 LAK
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 LAK