Always beware the backup goalie.
For nearly 30 minutes, the Kings looked like they were tumbling into a familiar trap, one that confounded them more than once on their recent seven-game trip — trying to solve the puzzle of the goalie who is often in the shadows.
Luke Schenn finally got one past Calgary goaltender Joni Ortio just before the middle of the second period and the Kings used that as a springboard to defeat the Flames, 2-1, on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Of the Kings' 35 wins this season, their All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick has 30. Quick became the third goalie to reach the 30-win plateau this season in the NHL.
They are 2-0 against their divisional foe, the Flames, this season and expanded their Pacific Division lead over their closest pursuers, Anaheim and San Jose. The second-place Ducks are four points behind the Kings and the Sharks are five points back.
It was an important start for the Kings in a stretch of eight of nine games at home.
“I know from over the last 17 years I've been playing, when you go on a long road trip, sometimes the first game back is really tough,” center Vinny Lecavalier said. "But it felt like we gelled really good tonight. It was a really good game as a team and now we've got to keep that momentum going.”
The Kings' goals, both in the second period, came from defenseman Schenn, an odd salvo from the right-wing boards, and center Anze Kopitar.
Kopitar, who missed Saturday's game at Nashville with a lower-body injury, scored his 18th of the season, wide open on the power play at 17:27 after Flames defenseman Mark Giordano had gone off for holding.
For Kopitar, it was his fifth game-winning goal of the season. He has scored five goals in his last five games, including his hat trick against the New York Rangers on Feb. 12.
Kopitar admitted that it was “awful” watching, rather than playing Saturday. That was the final game of the Kings' seven-game trip, their longest of the season.
On Tuesday, it was Ortio who got the start for the Flames instead of the struggling Jonas Hiller. In fact Ortio is further down the depth chart than No. 2 but got the call back to the NHL when Karri Ramo suffered a torn knee ligament on Feb. 11. Ramo is out for the season.
Ortio's last start for the Flames was Oct. 30 of this season, and his last NHL win was more than a year ago, coming against the Kings on Jan. 19, 2015.
The Kings had plenty of chances and threw 20 shots at Ortio before Schenn broke through, at 9:41 of the second, with his fluky goal, flinging it at the net from the right-wing boards with Lecavalier camped out in front.
“I've actually got a couple from the same spot this year,” Schenn said. “The puck comes rolling up the wall and I don't even really hesitate, just throw it to the net. A couple of times I've managed to catch a goalie not ready and you add that with traffic in front, it probably surprised him more than anything.”
Said Lecavalier: “In Philly, I've seen him score a few goals from there. You have to think shot first and he did that.”
Calgary tied it, 1-1, on the power play as Sean Monahan converted a nifty centering pass from linemate Jiri Hudler. Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin had gone off for interference and the Flames needed only eight seconds on the power play to equalize.
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