With the collar turned up on his black coat, Kings coach John Stevens looked ready to walk out into the chilly winter night in film-noir style.
His return to Philadelphia carried dramatic undertones because of what the area means to him, his family and his coaching career. Spike that equation with his team sorely needing to end a three-game winless streak and early on losing a defenseman against a Philadelphia Flyers team riding a six-game win streak.
The result, a 4-1 Kings victory Monday night, allowed Stevens some personal satisfaction.
“I’ll be totally honest, it’s nice to be where my kids grew up,” said the former Flyers player and coach. “It’s a win for them. This was a big game for us on this trip. I really wanted to take two points home for us. It’s just a nice win against a quality hockey team.”
Kings defenseman Christian Folin was sidelined in the first period because of an upper-body injury and there was no immediate update on his status. Down to five defensemen, the Kings powered through with goals by Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis, Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli. Jonathan Quick made 36 saves to shut the door on a game the Kings knew meant something to Stevens.
“I think any time you play one of your old clubs, you’ve got a little extra want going into the game,” Martinez said. “John has been unbelievable for us. He’s come in here and stepped in and encouraged an environment that’s very positive. He’s been awesome for us this year.”
The Kings defense supported a strong checking game. Drew Doughty had his usual all-over-the-ice presence and played more than 31 minutes. Martinez played nearly 28 and Anze Kopitar helped tighten the defense after the Kings gave up a power-play goal for the sixth consecutive game.
Kempe delivered a crushing goal 4:48 into the third period when he sprung from the penalty box to join a rush and shot the puck between teammate Dustin Brown’s legs. Kempe’s 11th goal made the score 3-1 and was at least the second he shot between a pair of legs.
“I don’t want to practice too much on my own guys,” Kempe said. “The goalie was cheating a little bit, far side. If I were to look for the pass, it was open. [But the shot] was open between the legs.”
Kempe had just served a cross-checking penalty, one of the Kings’ seven minor penalties. The Kings withstood a 15-shot third period in which Quick helped kill two penalties.
“Everyone’s got to dig in,” Martinez said. “It’s not just the five D that are remaining. You’ve got to keep your shifts short. You’ve got to make plays. You’ve got to keep things simple. We got unbelievable goaltending again, from Jonathan Quick, and that’s a huge part of it too.”
Flyers goalie Brian Elliott did not give up more than two goals in any game during his team’s winning streak. But Martinez beat Elliott on a slap shot off Torrey Mitchell’s faceoff win and Trevor Lewis scored on a snap shot from the right side to finish a rush.
Toffoli finished the scoring with a high shot on a short breakaway, the 100th goal of his career, after Nick Shore stripped the puck from Sean Couturier in front of a crowd of 19,617.
“We talked about how important it was to play a really good, solid team game, that we had to play to our identity,” Stevens said. “We knew we had to check this team well.”