Just a couple weeks ago, the Kings were feeling good and looking good. In fact, for a few days they were looking down at every other team in the Western Conference.
Things can change quickly though in the rough West. How quickly? Try 12 seconds.
The Kings scored a huge goal late in the third period Monday night, but then gave up the game-winner 12 seconds later as the Minnesota Wild pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Kings before 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
Scott Parse scored with 2:37 remaining in the third period to tie the game 3-3, but the Kings’ chances of earning at least one point didn’t last long.
Eric Belanger won the ensuing faceoff, took a quick pass from Cal Clutterbuck and shot, long range, from the right side. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty got a slight deflection on the puck, immediately after the shot, and the puck beat Jonathan Quick for Belanger’s second goal of the game.
``It's unbelievable how quick that happened,’’ Doughty said. ``Mentally, we had all the power there. We felt like, if we took it to overtime, we were going to win that game. Then they got that heartbreaker 12 seconds later. That can't be happening if we want to win games.’’
Win games and, of course, maintain a playoff spot. With their third consecutive loss, the Kings fell into sixth place in the West, with only a goal-differential tiebreaker keeping them out of seventh place. The Kings are three points ahead of ninth-place Detroit.
``That was a huge two points that got away from us,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``That's all that really matters at this point, points, whether we're playing good or bad. We found ways to win a couple weeks ago, and we need to find ways to win now.’’
Nervous time? Perhaps, but the Kings came away fairly pleased with their effort, which certainly seemed better than in their 3-2 loss to Phoenix two days earlier.
The Kings outshot the Wild 32-23 and rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period. Both teams had some unfortunate breaks, and the Kings happened to have the last one.
``We have to eliminate little mistakes throughout the ice,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``We were making mistakes on every one of their goals. We just need to tighten up a bit and we’ll be fine. We came out with a lot of urgency in the third.
``We are finally getting back to playing the hockey that got us success. It’s disappointing to come back in a game like that and then lose it but, hopefully we can carry our momentum into our next game at Calgary.’’
Hours before the game, Kings winger Justin Williams underwent surgery to repair the broken right ankle he suffered Saturday at Phoenix. Williams' recovery time has been estimated at 12 weeks.
In Williams' absence, Teddy Purcell took over his spot as the Kings' first-line right winger, but the new top line did not generate any points despite a handful of chances. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 19 saves in the loss.
``I thought we played well enough to win today,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``We're playing well. We didn't think we played well in Phoenix, but we played well enough to win today. We just need to keep going with the same thing.’’
The first period was scoreless but entertaining, one in which the Kings outshot the Wild 13-10. Minnesota had the period's only power play, and had an Antti Miettinen shot hit the post at the 7:58 mark but didn't score.
Minnesota controlled the first few minutes of the second period, and got rewarded 4:23 into the period. Belanger pushed the puck ahead to Martin Havlat, who carried it into the Kings' zone, one-on-one with Jack Johnson, slowed at the top of the right circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Quick high.
The Kings tied the game on a disputed goal with 8:24 left in the second period. Doughty crashed the net, and crashed into Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, but in the scrum the puck crossed the line. After a video review, the goal held up. Brad Richardson and Scott Parse picked up assists.
Minnesota had been 1-for-19 on the power play in its previous four games, but the Wild took the lead with a power-play goal with five minutes left in the second period. Andrew Brunette held the puck to the right of the Kings' net and fed a perfect, no-look backdoor pass to Kim Johnsson, who skated in and scored on a one-timer.
The Kings caught some bad luck on the play, as Alexander Frolov broke his stick and chose to temporarily leave the zone to get a new one.
``That's unbelievable bad luck,’’ Murray said. ``They go to clear, dump the puck in, it hits the shaft of Frolov's stick, breaks his stick, pucks goes in, he comes to try to get a new stick, and does get a new stick, and as he's recovering back into the zone, it's in the net. Those are things we have to work through. It happens, and it always works out in the end. You're going to get your breaks.’’
The Wild took a two-goal lead late in the period. Owen Nolan held the puck behind the Kings' net, and fed a centering pass past Doughty in front and onto the stick of Belanger, who managed to knock the puck past Quick with 1:02 remaining in the second period.
The Kings got some life, 2:28 into the third period, on the power play as Jack Johnson's shot got through, with some nice traffic in front by Michal Handzus, and beat Backstrom after a deflection by Johnsson to pull the Kings within 3-2.
Parse tied the game with some hard work. He created a turnover behind the Minnesota net, then went to the slot and, a few moments later, picked up a loose puck and put a wrist shot past Backstrom to tie the game with 2:37 remaining. The game would be even for only 12 seconds before Belanger’s game-winner.
LAKings.com's NOTES The Kings are still 5-1-1 in their last seven games at home.
...The Kings five-game winning streak to Minnesota was snapped (last loss coming March 15, 2008).
...Drew Doughty (1-1=2 tonight) is now tied for first in the NHL among defensemen with nine goals.
...Doughty (9-17=26) this season had (6-21=27) all of last season.
...Brad Richardson has five points in the last four games (1-4=5).
...11 of the last 13 Kings games have been decided by one goal (Kings 8-3-0 in those games).
...Sean O’Donnell played in his 498th game as a King tonight. Only four other defensemen have played in 500 games with the Kings.
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