This was no garden-variety hat trick finished off with a cheap empty-netter.
Youngster Tyler Toffoli carried it off with style and meaning.
Toffoli recorded his first career hat trick with the aplomb and touch of a gifted goal-scorer, leading the Kings to a 5-3 victory over Calgary on Thursday night. The hat trick was his first in 120 NHL games and he added an assist, tying a career high with four points.
Hats hit the ice at Staples Center at 8:18 of the third period when Toffoli made it 5-2 on a breakaway, taking a lead pass from linemate Dwight King and beating Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller with a backhander. It was his team-leading 18th goal.
Toffoli was an equal-opportunity goal-scorer, getting goals in each of the three periods. He scored his 16th of the season in the first period and his 17th with 16 seconds remaining in the second period, tying it, 2-2. The Kings had trailed, 2-1, after the Flames scored two quick goals in the second period, but L.A.. went on to record four unanswered goals and win its third game in a row.
"I thought we played a really solid game," said Toffoli, who had the first hat trick of the season for the Kings and first since King did it on Oct.24, 2013 against the Coyotes. "When we play like that it's way more fun, especially when we're winning. It was exciting, and it's a personal accomplishment. But at this time of the year, it's huge to get wins. Our third straight and we just have to keep rolling."
And to think around a month ago, Toffoli was diagnosed with mononucleosis, which could have kept him out for a significant period. Instead, Toffoli made a rapid recovery and recaptured his early-season form near the end of the last Kings trip, clicking nicely with a revised version of "That 70's Line."
Rookie left wing Tanner Pearson, Toffoli and center Jeff Carter were the hottest line in the NHL in October but fell off significantly by November. Pearson broke his leg, in fact, on Jan. 10, one day after Toffoli left the lineup because of his illness.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter inserted size on the left wing in the form of King, and the combination has been impressive. King, Carter and Toffoli have combined for eight goals and six assists in the last three games. Carter, the gifted goal-scorer, turned facilitator Thursday and had three assists, tying a season high, including the primary assist on King's goal, just 59 seconds into the third period, which made it 3-2.
The Kings outshot the Flames, 45-18.
The teams used to be fierce Smythe Division rivals once upon a time and Barry Melrose won his first playoff series in 1993 against the Flames when he coached the Kings.
So maybe it was fitting the Kings honored their former coach on a night they played the Flames, in a game carrying significant playoff implications. The Kings pulled within three points of Calgary, which holds the last wild-card playoff spot.
"We stayed with it," Toffoli said. "They [the Flames] scored two quick goals, but we didn't let it faze us. And we scored big goals at the right time.