Kings coach Terry Murray, ever the teacher, frequently talks about adversity, and how good he thinks it is for his young team to deal with, and try to overcome.
In that case, Thursday night’s game must have felt like heaven to Murray.
The Kings faced adversity, waves of it. They twice trailed, and faced a third-period deficit against arguably the best goalie in the NHL this season, but they rallied for a 4-3 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres before 16,884 at STAPLES Center.
How fickle are the Western Conference standings these days? If the Kings had not earned a point, they would have fallen into ninth place, out of a playoff spot for the first time in three months.
By earning two points, however, the Kings not only maintained their playoff position but actually passed Calgary for seventh place. The Kings are now one point clear of Detroit and Calgary, with a big game looming for them Saturday at Detroit.
That game, of course, brings the potential for more adversity. Murray welcomes it, perhaps because his already gray hair can’t get much lighter.
``It's a nice step for us, after going through a little bit of a difficult time here,’’ Murray said. ``I think heading out on the road now, we can draw on this experience here today, that we can dig in and play well, and deal with the adversities that are in the game.’’
The Kings trailed 2-1 in the second period and 3-2 in the third period, but tied the game on Ryan Smyth’s goal nine minutes into the third period. The shootout had an international flavor, on both ends, and the Kings came out on top.
The Kings’ Jonathan Quick and Buffalo’s Ryan Miller are two of the United States’ three Olympic goalies, and Quick got the better of Miller by winning the shootout 2-1.
Anze Kopitar and Buffalo’s Drew Stafford scored in the first round, and after two saves, Dustin Brown – alternate captain of Team USA – beat Miller and Quick stopped Tim Connolly to allow the Kings to finish their season-long homestand with a 3-4 record.
``It's a good shot in the arm for us,’’ said Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell, who scored a second-period goal. ``That's a real good team over there. They don't give you a whole lot, and to battle back from 2-1, and then 3-2 -- especially after we did tie it up at the end of the second and had some momentum, and have them score after a minute and a half -- we never got deflated.
``That was kind of our motto for today, to just keep moving, keep pushing forward, know that good things were going to happen. Smytty was rewarded just by going to the net. We had a couple nice goals there in the shootout and we got away with two (points).’’
Quick stopped 26 of 29 shots to win on his 24th birthday, and the Kings found a way to beat Miller, who entered the game with a 1.99 goals-against average, three times.
Maligned of late for their slow starts, the Kings had a 1-0 lead after one period thanks to Brad Richardson’s goal, but then gave up two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period and had to find a way back into the game.
``The key is playing a full 60 minutes,’’ Smyth said. ``We did that. Even when they capitalized and they scored, we didn't quit. We didn't feel let down or anything. We didn't feel sorry for ourselves. We came at them and played relentless. It was a battle. They're a good team over there and they played hard. Obviously the guys put it in during the shootout and Quickie played great.''
The Kings had to stay patient throughout the game. They had a flurry of chances in the middle part of the first period, including a shorthanded breakaway by Richardson, but couldn't score.
They broke through with 7:32 left in the period, as a new-look line of Richardson, Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds contributed to a goal. Kopitar won an offensive-zone faceoff and Simmonds pushed the puck back to Drew Doughty. Richardson, in the slot, deflected Doughty's shot past Miller.
The Kings' lead lasted only 22 seconds into the second period. Clarke MacArthur carried the puck up the left side of the Kings' zone, and his centering pass was deflected by O'Donnell and ended up in the Kings' net to tie the game.
Buffalo took the lead with a power-play goal 9:47 into the second period. Thomas Vanek, in front of the Kings' net, knocked Drew Doughty to the ice, then took a centering pass from Connolly and beat Quick.
The Kings appeared to have tied the game with a power-play goal with 6:24 remaining in the second period, but after a video review, the goal was disallowed. Officials said it was pushed into the net off the glove of Oscar Moller.
The Kings did tie the game with 55 seconds remaining in the second period. O'Donnell shot from just inside the blue line and the puck beat Miller, with Michal Handzus running traffic right in front of Miller.
Buffalo took the lead on another early-period goal, 1:07 into the second period. Jason Pominville, with the puck in the left corner, centered the puck, and it went through to the right corner. Rob Scuderi and Jochen Hecht battled in front of the Kings' net and obstructed Quick a bit, and Craig Rivet shot and scored from the right side.
The Kings tied the game, 9:03 into the third period, with a goal that held up under video review. Dustin Brown dropped a pass to Jarret Stoll at the top of the right circle. Stoll sent the puck to the front of the net and Smyth, skating in, had the puck deflect off his left skate and past Miller.
``I thought we generated as many scoring chances here today as we had maybe in any game this homestand,’’ Murray said. ``Quality chances. Miller, he stood very tall. He's very good. But you do have to keep going. You do have to keep putting pucks to the net. As an example, the Ryan Smyth goal. That's a hard play for any goaltender.’’
LAKings.com's NOTES The win moves the Kings into seventh place in the Western Conference...The Kings are 7-3 in shootouts this season (27-21 all time)
...The Kings have won seven out of their last eight shootouts
... The seven shootout wins is a single-season record... The most shootouts the Kings have played in one season is 13 (2008-09)
... Jonathan Quick is 12-4 all-time in shootouts (stopping 36 of 50 shots = .720 sv percentage)
... Quick’s seven shootout wins this season is tops in the NHL
... Sean O’Donnell is 1 point away from 200 in his NHL career (29-170=199)
... Dustin Brown’s next game will be the 400th in his NHL/Kings career
... The Kings finished the homestand 3-4-0 (but won three of the final four games)
...Drew Doughty had his ninth multi-point game of the season. He has 12 assists in his last 10 games
...Anze Kopitar has eight points in his last nine games (3-5=8)
...Wayne Simmonds has 17 points in his last 22 games (7-10=17) + 12 in that span
... Brad Richardson has 11 points in his last 15 games (3-8=11) +8 in that span
...The Kings are now 23-4-3 when scoring first
...18 of the their last 24 games have been decided by one goal (11-7-0)
...11 of the last 13 home games have been decided by one goal (6-4-1).