This time defenseman Jake Muzzin wasn't the fall guy for the Kings. He came up with a better stunt for his team.
He wasn't sprawled on the ice, watching the Ducks celebrate a goal. He was staring at a wide-open net. Muzzin buried a pass from Anze Kopitar to give the Kings that precious first goal in a 2-1 victory that evened the Western Conference semifinals, 3-3.
The Kings had a pulse by the time they skated off the ice at Staples Center. They had won their fifth consecutive elimination game of these playoffs, forcing a Game 7 in Anaheim on Friday.
Muzzin was the defibrillator.
"That was a great feeling to come out and get the momentum for the team," Muzzin said.
It was a larger-than-life moment that kept the Kings from checking on tee times for the weekend.
"Getting that first goal puts the pressure on the other team," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "It puts them on their heels."
Muzzin's big moment in Game 5 was spent off his heels. He slipped in the corner at Honda Center, opening a path to the net for the Ducks' first goal in their 4-3 victory. He had spent the postgame beating himself up, telling reporters, "It's my fault. I fell and they scored."
Coach Darryl Sutter came to his player's defense on the day off, saying the corner at Honda Center was notorious because it was where the resurfecing machine emerges to smooth the ice between periods.
"That's where they come out and that's where the water is, and that's where they close the door," Sutter said.
There was no reason to rush to Muzzin's defense Wednesday.
The Kings were facing the same situation they endured four times against San Jose in the first round. A loss started the off-season. An early goal was an absolute must.
They got it with a kind bounce and brilliant pass. The puck deflected off the stick of Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen and rolled to Kopitar. He held for a second, then slipped a no-look backhand pass to Muzzin, who had dropped in from the blue line on the backside.
All goaltender Josh Gibson had time for was to admire the handiwork.
"I saw an opportunity and it worked," Muzzin said.
Because of Kopitar, Muzzin said.
"He's pretty good, man," Muzzin said. "I had some room to sneak back door. I was yelling. I think he saw me before he got the puck. He kind of knew I was were down there. He has great awareness and great vision. He put it right on the tape. If I had missed that one I would have been sick."
It was Muzzin's third goal of the playoffs.
The offensive input was a big lift. But he also did a considerable amount of work doing his day job — playing defense.
The Ducks had five goals in their last 12 power plays. Muzzin logged 25 minutes, nearly five of which were spent killing penalties.
"I think we were better up ice," Muzzin said. "We didn't give them easy entries into the zone. We were pretty good at making them scramble from there, not letting them set up as much."
Which helped distance Muzzin from his "oops" moment in Anaheim.
Said Muzzin: "That was a long time ago."
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