The Kings got one ugly win. Did they also dodge a devastating loss?
Andrei Loktionov's first NHL goal, early in the third period, held up as the game-winner as the Kings beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 on Wednesday night before 17,769 at STAPLES Center.
The celebration, though, was tempered by the fact that star defenseman Drew Doughty had to leave the game with an upper-body injury after the first period. Kings coach Terry Murray said the injury took place after Doughty collided with Carolina's Erik Cole in the neutral zone.
``Doughty carried the puck out of our zone, and the puck had long gone,'' Murray said. ``He didn't have it for a long way when the hit happened.''
Murray did not elaborate on the nature or extent of Doughty's injury, and Doughty was not available for comment. Doughty did not accompany the team to Phoenix for the start of its five-game road trip, but Murray left open the possibility that Doughty might join the team during the trip.
The loss of Doughty, for any amount of time, would be significant, and the Kings felt the loss of Doughty in the third period Wednesday, when they had to scramble to hold on to their 4-3 lead.
``It was one of those games where it was a pretty open game,'' Anze Kopitar said. ``I don’t know if the coaches really want to see that because it was not a whole lot of a checking game. The most important thing is just to get the two points out of it, and it’s a good way to start this seven games in 11 nights. We’re going on the road and it was a pretty good game for us.
``We do have four wins but it’s a long season and we’re going to have to work hard for it.''
Loktionov banked in the puck off the stick of Carolina goalie Justin Peters, from behind the net, to give the Kings the lead 3:19 into the third period, and Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier had to make 15 saves -- and help kill two Carolina power plays -- in the third period.
The Kings lost leads of 1-0 and 3-2 in the game, but did just enough to improve to 4-1 this season. The Kings also started last season 4-1 on the way to making the playoffs. Kopitar had his first goal of the season on Wednesday, and Ryan Smyth and Michal Handzus also scored goals.
``Four and one is good,'' Murray said, ``I think we made it a lot harder than what it should have been tonight, with our play with the puck, but the bottom line is we got some big plays at the end of the game with some special teams and penalty killing. Bernier was real sharp and found a way to get it done.''
On special teams, it was a familiar story for the Kings. They went 0-for-4 on the power play, and have scored only one power-play goal in five games this season, but went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and are now 21-for-23 on the penalty kill for the year (including one empty-net goal against).
It was a battle of backup goalies who fared just about equally well, as the Kings' Bernier made his second start of the season and stopped 27 of 30 shots. Carolina's Peters made his first appearance of the season and showed good rebound control in his 23 saves.
Bernier, who previously allowed two goals in a loss to Calgary, looked a bit unstable in net in the first two periods, as he was unable to help the Kings hold their first- and second-period leads. The game was often wide-open and messy, but Bernier found his best game in the third period.
The Kings started the scoring early in the first period, after a successful penalty kill. A well-timed pass by Willie Mitchell hit Smyth coming out of the penalty box and started an odd-man rush. Smyth dropped a nice pass for Justin Williams, then swooped behind the net. Peters made the save on Williams, but Smyth picked up the rebound and scored at the 5:43 mark.
The Hurricanes didn't take long to tie the game. Chad LaRose got the puck down low and beat Bernier with a crisp wrist shot from the left side that glanced off the crossbar. Video review confirmed that the puck went into the net at the 7:31 mark.
Carolina then took the lead with 2:14 remaining in the first period. Kings defenseman Jack Johnson was unable to control the puck at the offensive blue line, and Eric Staal picked it up and scored on a breakaway on a wrist shot from the right circle.
``Tonight it was a pretty hard first and second (periods),'' Bernier said, ``but I had to make an adjustment there to find a way to feel comfortable.''
The Kings rallied with a big goal with 8.5 seconds left in the period. Wayne Simmonds found himself alone with the puck in the left circle, took two strides to the net and shot. Alexei Ponikarovsky got a deflection before Handzus tipped the puck past Peters to make it 2-2.
Doughty's injury took place late in the first period, although he didn't appear to leave the ice in any particular pain, and there were no altercations after the hit. The injury took the Kings down to five defenseman, including rookie Jake Muzzin, who was playing in his fifth NHL game.
``Tonight the guys stepped up,'' Murray said. ``There was good play, Muzzin played well, (Davis) Drewiske, I thought was very good tonight, he carried the puck and was strong defensively and very involved. I can say the same with Scuds [Rob Scuderi], (Willie) Mitchell, and Jack (Johnson). Everybody dug in a little bit more and they thrive on that extra minute.''
Kopitar's first goal of the season gave the Kings the lead 6:58 into the second period. Dustin Brown won the puck with an offensive-zone check along the left boards, and Kopitar picked it up and scored from the middle of the ice on a high wrist shot.
The Hurricanes tied it at 3-3 with 5:21 remaining in the second period. Bernier got his glove on Anton Babchuk's point shot, but dropped the puck and Jeff Skinner jumped on it and beat Bernier five-hole from close range.
Loktionov's first NHL goal, 3:19 into the third period, gave the Kings the lead again. Loktionov held the puck behind the Carolina net and looked to make a play, but with no one in front, Loktionov took a chance and tossed the puck in front. It deflected off Peters' stick and then into the net.
During the game, the Kings announced that defenseman Matt Greene has been medically cleared to play. Greene, who underwent shoulder surgery in July, accompanied the Kings for the start of the road trip, but his return date has not yet been set.
1 - 0 LAK
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CAR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 LAK
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 LAK
Interference - Goalkeeper