Kings hold off Lightning, 3-2, and winning streak is alive at five

Kings hold off Lightning, 3-2, and winning streak is alive at five
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick covers up the puck after stopping a shot from Tampa Bay forward Brenden Morrow during the second period of L.A.'s 3-2 win over the Lightning at Staples Center. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

The Western Conference Assistance Program was not operating Monday night.

At least not from a Kings perspective.

So it ended up turning into a self-help night for the Kings. In other words, they managed to pick up ground in the playoff race, beating Tampa Bay, 3-2, at Staples Center.

It was the Kings' fifth straight victory — their second-longest winning streak of the season — and it put them within two points of San Jose, which occupies the final wild-card playoff spot.


"Things are coming together for us," said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who tied the score in the second period with his first goal in 11 games. "Obviously we're playing with more desperation, as we should have before. But it seems like now it's clicking for us.

"We're getting some breaks too, which certainly doesn't hurt. We've just got to keep on going. We're still in a hole. We know that."

They kept the streak going by rallying from a 1-0 deficit. They didn't lead until 3:36 of the third period, during which they opened up the game with an eye-catching display of speed. The go-ahead goal came in transition and from an unexpected source: winger Jordan Nolan, who scored his fourth of the season off a skillful move to beat Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a backhander, making it 2-1.

"I thought we did well against their top guys," Nolan said. "[Center Steven] Stamkos is one of the best players in the league . . . and it seemed like he was having a tough time trying to find the net."

Nolan's third goal in the last eight games was set up by Dwight King's drop pass. The second assist went to rookie center Nick Shore.

King also had the second assist on Jeff Carter's goal that made it 3-1 at 13:59 of the third. Carter took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Drew Doughty and rifled a shot past Vasilevskiy from the right circle.

King is on a four-game point scoring streak, a career high, and has seven points in the last four games. The two assists Monday also were a career high.

The Kings had more than a few nervous moments late in the game when Tampa Bay pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker and its leading scorer, Tyler Johnson, beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with 36.1 seconds remaining.

The first Kings goal came from an expected source but one who has been in a goal-scoring slump. Kopitar made it 1-1 at 7: 04 of the second period, scoring on a breakaway off a terrific lead pass from Trevor Lewis. It was Kopitar's 12th goal of the season but his first in almost a month. His last goal came on Jan. 17 against the Ducks.

"I knew I had a lot of speed right in the middle of the ice," Kopitar said. "As soon as the pass went to [Lewis], I figured that might be a little bit of room in the middle and I just wanted to take off. He hit me with a really nice pass and I was able to beat" Vasilevskiy.

This win streak started in Tampa against the Lightning and has pulled the Kings out of a deep deficit in the Western Conference playoff race.

On Monday, they could have used victories by Edmonton, Boston and even Arizona. So what happened? Winnipeg beat the Oilers in a shootout, Colorado knocked off Arizona and Calgary rallied from a three-goal deficit to stun Boston in overtime.

Assistance would not be arriving . . . until the Kings helped themselves.

Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa