The hockey gods seem to have a way of evening things out, a way of rewarding or punishing teams over time when efforts don't always match results.
Nine days earlier, the Kings had a strong effort against Detroit but came away without a point. Saturday afternoon? Well, the Kings couldn't have claimed much more than 20 good minutes of play, but they managed to skate away with two points.
Trailing by two goals midway through the third period, the Kings rallied to tie the game, then beat Boston 4-3 in a shootout before a sellout crowd at STAPLES Center.
``We’ve had both sides of the game in the last two weeks,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``We’ve had a game when we completely dominated and lost. Tonight, I felt we played a pretty good game in the first and third, and we found a way. Over the course of the year, a lot of those up-and-down games, or those games that you shouldn’t win but win, and vice versa, games you should win but lose, they all even out in the end.''
The win had big short-term implications. It allowed the Kings to maintain a two-point cushion over Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and it allowed the Kings to improve to 2-3 on this important, season-long seven-game homestand.
``We were OK tonight,'' Drew Doughty. ``We weren’t good, and obviously we need to be a lot better than that if we want to be winning all our games. We deserved the two points, we came back and won, but they outplayed us, I thought, for most of the game.''
Doughty put the game in good perspective. Facing a shorthanded Boston team, with three top forwards out of the lineup, the Kings had a strong first 12 minutes, and took a 1-0 lead on Jarret Stoll's first-period goal, but then the bottom pretty much fell out.
The Bruins started to control the game in the first period, tied in with 1:40 remaining, then scored two unanswered second-period goals to take a 3-1 lead into the third.
The Kings seemed destined to lose. They didn't score, despite almost seven consecutive minutes of power-play time late in the second period and early in the third -- including two separate 5-on-3s -- and trailed at the midway point of the third.
Then, Brown scored with 9:28 remaining and Anze Kopitar scored with 7:16 remaining -- off nice behind-the-net plays by Alexander Frolov and Wayne Simmonds, respectively -- to assure the Kings at least one point after regulation.
The Kings took the extra point in the shootout, as Kopitar and Brown scored and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped both Boston shooters he faced.
``It’s a huge two points for us, to come back in the third period, to tie it up and to start to play better,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said.
``I thought it became a little frustrating for the bench as we got through those power-play opportunities. It was a lot of work, to get back at it and show some confidence and manage the puck and then, finally, pick away at it and get something done to tie it up.''
The Kings assured themselves of staying in a playoff position until at least Tuesday. Ninth-place Detroit is two points behind the Kings, and plays Sunday, but even if the Red Wings win, the Kings still have more wins at this point, which is the second tiebreaker.
With roughly three months left in the season, it's too early to start counting games, except that in the ultra-tight Western Conference, things will probably be this close until the end.
``You lose one, you might be in ninth. You lose one, you might be up to seventh,'' said Kings forward Brad Richardson, who had two assists and was named the game's first star. ``You’ve just got to try to give yourself a chance. Every point is going to help. You never want to look back at the end of the year and miss by one or two points. I’ve been there, with Colorado. We missed by one point, and it’s never fun.''
Boston came in shorthanded, without top forwards Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard, but the Bruins were able to end a three-game losing streak with an impressive shootout victory over San Jose on Thursday.
The Bruins, on Saturday, were also without Marco Sturm, who missed the game with an undisclosed leg injury, although they did regain the services of David Krejci.
In goal, it was a battle of two of the three goalies who will represent the United States in next month's Olympics: Quick (21 saves) and Boston's Tim Thomas (31 saves).
The Kings took the lead with 8:18 remaining in the first period. Scott Parse faked a shot, went wide, then shot from the right circle. Thomas made the stop, but Stoll went to the net and poked the rebound over the line.
Boston carried the pace of play for a while after the Kings goal, and the Bruins got rewarded with 1:40 remaining in the first period. Miroslav Satan slowed in the right circle and took a wrist shot. Kings defenseman Jack Johnson appeared to get a deflection, and the shot beat Quick.
``Near the end of the first period, we started getting a little cute with the pucks, the plays,'' Murray said, ``and we stopped doing the things that were working. We basically went through the same in the second period. So I think the character test there was pretty big.''
It would get bigger. At times this season, the Kings have tended to give up quick consecutive goals, and they got burned by that in the second period.
With 9:07 remaining in the period, Boston's Blake Wheeler shot from the right side. The rebound kicked out in front, and Michael Ryder battled with Kings defenseman Sean O'Donnell in front of the net. Wheeler was awarded the goal after it was ruled that the puck deflected in off O'Donnell.
Then, just 11 seconds later, Ryder got another goal. Wheeler came up the left side and made a perfect, blind cross-ice pass to Ryder, who one-timed it in before Quick could slide over.
The Kings had ample opportunity to get back in the game, late in the second period and early in the third period. Starting with Mark Stuart's holding penalty, with 3:29 remaining in the second period, the Kings spent all but 19 seconds of the next 6 minutes, 48 seconds, on the power play.
That included two 5-on-3 advantages, for 1:12 and 39 seconds, respectively, in which the Kings couldn't score, albeit against the most successful penalty-kill unit in the NHL. For the season, they're now 2-for-18 with a two-man advantage, including 2-for-13 on two-man advantages that last at least 30 seconds.
``Well, we had the opportunities on the 5-on-3s,'' Murray said. ``We’re still getting the offensive-zone time and moving the puck around. We need to establish some better traffic. Most of our plays are coming from the top, with the defensemen or Stoll on the one-timer. You’ve got to get traffic in front of the net.
``Most goalies in the league, that are good ones, are going to stop those plays. That’s the only change that we’ve got to focus in on, and emphasize that we have to have those guys there.''
The Kings managed to overcome it, as pulled within one goal with 9:28 remaining in the third period. Frolov battled for the puck behind the Bruins' net, and it squirted out front to Brown, whose wrist shot beat Thomas.
``We kind of got flat when they scored,'' Richardson said. ``Brownie scored that big goal, and that kind of gave us a boost and we said, `You know, we can get back in this game.’ That was kind of the turning point.''
The Kings tied the game with 7:06 remaining. Wayne Simmonds controlled the puck behind the Boston net, then centered it to Kopitar, whose wrist shot beat Thomas to tie the game.
The Kings are 6-3 in shootouts this season...Their six shootout wins ties a single-season record (also six shootout wins in 2005-06)...Jonathan Quick’s six shootout wins is tied for the most in the NHL...Quick has stopped 24 of 33 in shootouts this season (.727 sv pct)...The last time the Kings trailed by two goals in a game and won was Nov. 16, 2009 at Florida (down 2-0, won 4-3 in SO)...This was the fourth time the Kings won this season when trailing after two periods...Alexander Frolov earned his 200th assist in the NHL/as a King...Brad Richardson has 10 points in the last 13 games (2-8-10) and is a +8 in that span...Anze Kopitar has points in four straight (2-2=4) and has seven points in the last seven games (3-4=7)...The Kings are 51-24-8 all-time when Kopitar scores a goal (12-3-0 this season)...The Kings’ 57 points is tied for the fourth most in club history after 48 games...celebs in the stands included Dwayne Johnson promoting his new movie, "Tooth Fairy," 90210's Jessica Lowndes and former Friends' star Matthew Perry.
1 - 0 LAK
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BOS
3 - 1 BOS
3 - 2 BOS