TORONTO – Drew Doughty was named the game’s first star Tuesday. After the game, about a dozen members of the Toronto media rushed to the locker of the Ontario native.
On the other side of the room, Dustin Brown sat and talked to two American reporters.
``It doesn’t bother me,’’ Brown said. ``I’d rather be under the radar.’’
Ontario’s native son got the hero treatment Tuesday night after the Kings’ 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, and rightfully so, as Doughty had a goal and an assist in an outstanding overall effort.
Brown? All he did was record his first three-point game of the season, the first three-assist game of his career, and make a couple of dynamic offensive-zone plays that led directly to Kings goals as they won for the fifth time in their last six games.
``He played a great game. He played fantastic for us,’’ Doughty said. ``That's why he's our captain. When he leads by example like that, we all follow. I felt that when he picked up his game, and was making those nice plays and making hits, we all followed his lead and that's why we won.’’
Beating the woeful Leafs is nothing new this season – Toronto has the third-worst record in the NHL this season – but the Kings showed good poise as they twice took a lead, lost it, then rallied to lead again, finally taking a 4-2 lead in the second period.
The Kings led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before the big goal, from Stoll, made it 4-2 with 7:23 remaining in the second period. Brown made that play possible. In the Toronto zone, Brown easily bumped Wayne Primeau off the puck, turned toward the net, skated it and pushed a pass across to Stoll, who went to the net and scored on an easy one-timer.
Toronto made it interesting when Niklas Hagman scored his second goal of the game with 1:18 remaining, but Frolov scored with 10 seconds remaining. The Kings also got good contributions from defensemen, as Doughty, Johnson, Matt Greene, Peter Harrold and Rob Scuderi all had at least one point.
The Kings would have climbed into fifth place in the Western Conference, but Phoenix scored twice in the last 90 seconds to force overtime against Detroit.
The Kings remain in sixth place, but are now two points clear of seventh-place Nashville and – perhaps most importantly -- five points clear of ninth-place Calgary.
``It's not going to change,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said of the tight Western Conference. ``It's going to stay close. Unless we get a big push on, and unless you're able to go 10 or 12 games in a row here, as a team, you're not going to pull away. It's going to be interesting and exciting and fun to be a part of it, right down to the end.’’
Brown had some fun Tuesday, in what hasn’t been the easiest of seasons. At one point, he endured a 14-game stretch without a goal, but has come on stronger of late and has three goals and five assists in his last nine games.
``Obviously it's a huge two points for us,’’ Brown said. ``We got out of the first. We didn't play a great period, but it was 1-1. It was one of those things where these two points are bigger than we've had at any other point of the year.
``I just got in on the forecheck a couple times and turned over pucks, and when you do that, good things happen.’’
In the days leading up to the game, nobody drew more media attention than Doughty. Not only was the London, Ontario, native playing his first game in his home province, but next month, Doughty will be the youngest player on Canada’s Olympic team.
That’s sort of a big deal north of the border.
Doughty was able to celebrate the win with his 10th goal of the season.
``It was awesome,’’ Doughty said. ``I was obviously really excited to play here in Toronto. I had lots of friends and family here watching the game. And to get that win, it's really important for the team as well, so it was great to get that one.’’
The game was also a happy homecoming for fellow Ontario natives Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds. The Kings' previous game in Toronto was on Dec. 6, 2005, when Brown scored two goals and Mathieu Garon made 36 saves in a 2-1 Kings victory.
At that time, current Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, was in his freshman year at the University of Massachusetts. Quick was in goal Tuesday, against Toronto's Jonas Gustavsson (28 saves), and clearly won the battle.
The Kings scored first, and broke an 0-for-27 skid on the power play, with 8:33 remaining in the first period. Stoll slid the puck across to Doughty, who scored on a one-time from above the left circle with Brown running traffic in front.
The Leafs tied the game with 4:54 left in the first period. Nikolai Kulemin carried the puck up the left side of the Kings' zone and fired a relatively simple wrist shot. Kulemin was being marked by Peter Harrold, who apparently got a slight deflection on the shot that fluttered past Quick.
The Kings took the lead back 1:53 into the second period. With some good traffic in front, Johnson took a nice pass from Brown, from down low, and scored on a rocket slap shot.
``Brownie had a big night tonight,’’ Murray said. ``Very strong, powerful, that power-forward attitude that we like to see. Especially the play with Jack's goal. My goodness. It takes a very special player to be able to show that kind of composure under pressure and a stressful situation and still, at the same time, find the open player. He had a big night.’’
A defensive-zone turnover by Scuderi led to the puck being on Hagman's stick, and a quick 2-on-1 from close range. Hagman kept the puck and scored to the top near corner to tie the game 8:19 into the second period.
A good defensive play led to a Kings goal. Brown checked Wayne Primeau and forced the puck away in the Toronto zone. Brown skated to the net and found Stoll for an easy tip-in with 7:23 remaining in the second period.
``It was a weird play,’’ Brown said. ``He came from the top and I don't think he [Primeau] saw me. I turned the puck over on him and expected to see at least one defenseman. The other four guys were already at the hash marks or above. I took it from him and I was a little surprised to see nobody below the dots for them.’’
The Kings took a two-goal lead with 3:48 left in the second period. Brown again had the pressure in the Toronto end, and Smyth picked up the puck and scored on a high wrist shot from the middle of the right circle.