Kings team captain Dustin Brown planted himself near the left goal post in the opening moments of a power play Monday night at Staples Center, received a flawless cross-ice pass from defenseman Slava Voynov and slammed the puck into the back of the net.
Jarret Stoll, a Kings center, skated into a gap in the Calgary Flames’ defensive coverage a short time later, received a deft pass from the left-wing boards from rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin and unleashed a shot that popped the water bottle off the top of the net.
Except it wasn’t. The Kings still had miles to skate before they could claim their second victory in three nights over the Flames. The Kings had to withstand one charge after another from the determined and desperate Flames before they could secure a 3-1 win.
Brown added an empty-net goal with 27 seconds remaining after Calgary’s Mikael Backlund burned the Kings with a dash down the right wing and a nifty shot past goaltender Jonathan Quick to narrow the Flames’ deficit to 2-1 at 14:38 of the final period.
The Kings started the game with a pair of highlight-reel goals, but it took more substance than style to finish their five-game homestand with a 4-1-0 mark. They needed a lot of grit to turn back the Flames and reach the midway point of the lockout-shortened 48-game season with a 14-8-2 record.
“We just found a way to win,” Stoll said. “It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t pretty. It was hack and whack out there at lot of times, pucks were all over the place. They had a good push in the third … They’re a team with a lot of pride. They wanted to win, too.”
For a while, it looked as if the Kings might be in for an easy night after they built a 2-0 lead on goals from Brown and Stoll only 9:40 into the game. It seemed like it might be another very long game for the Flames, 6-2 losers to the Kings on Saturday and 4-0 losers to the Ducks on Friday.
The Kings couldn’t extend their lead, however. The Flames kept pushing, but couldn’t beat Quick until Backlund did it late in the game. Quick made 23 saves, but didn’t get much help from defenseman Alec Martinez on Backlund’s goal.
“He got beat one-on-one,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “Don’t get beat one-on-one in the NHL.”
Sutter indicated he would stick with Martinez for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes, the first game of a two-game trip, in spite of his defensive lapse Monday against the Flames. Sutter could bench Martinez in favor of the more veteran Davis Drewiske.
Sutter also said he would speak to Quick on the Kings’ postgame flight to Phoenix about starting in tonight’s game. Quick (9-7-2) made his fourth consecutive start in Monday’s game after Jonathan Bernier started in goal for the Kings’ victory March 4 over the Nashville Predators.
Tonight’s game against the Coyotes is the first in a stretch of six consecutive contests against Pacific Division rivals, an opportunity for the second-place Kings to solidify their playoff standing and perhaps gain some ground on the first-place Ducks (18-3-3).
“The schedule is hard,” Sutter said. “You’ve got to find ways to hang in there. It means you’re a good hockey team when you do that. … We’ve found different ways to win games. That’s what you have to do. The schedule does win and lose games for teams.”