In the opening minutes of the third period at the Forum Tuesday night, the only question, with the Kings coasting along with a 3-0 lead, seemed to be whether goalie Kelly Hrudey would get a shutout against the Winnipeg Jets.
By the closing seconds, however, there was a far bigger question: Would Hrudey hang on for something far more important--a victory.
Coming up with four goals during the final period and outshooting the Kings, 27-11, over the final two periods, the Jets rallied but fell short, 5-4, before a Forum crowd of 16,005.
At the end, Hrudey was facing a two-man advantage with the Jets on a power play and their goalie, Stephane Beauregard, pulled from the game.
But the King goalie hung on to get his 24th victory and the team's eighth in a row at home after Mike Donnelly's second goal of the night and 27th of the season had broken a 4-4 tie with 5:48 to play.
"You look at the second period. We got completely away from our game plan," Coach Tom Webster said. "We should have been out at LAX registering our flight patterns. You've got to play lean hockey. You've got to go up and down, keep it simple.
"All of a sudden, we're throwing cross-ice passes. We're trying who knows what. It's not something we practice."
With third-place Edmonton (27-32-13) also losing, the Kings (33-27-13) enjoy a seven-point lead over the Oilers in their battle to finish second in the Smythe Division, which would give them home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Kings lead the Jets by 12 points, with seven games to play.
Luciano Borsato started the Winnipeg comeback with his 13th goal 6:09 into the final period. Mike Hartman followed with his fourth at 10:07.
Peter Ahola blunted the comeback with his seventh goal of the season and second of the night to give the Kings a 4-2 lead.
But goals by Teppo Numminen (fifth) and Eddie Olczyk (26th) tied the score with a little more than six minutes to play.
The Kings played in the first period as they had in winning eight consecutive games, a streak culminated in their last Forum appearance slightly more than a week ago.
They played the next two periods Tuesday as they had on their recently completed 0-3 road trip.
The Kings scored three first-period goals Tuesday, equaling their total for the entire trip.
Ahola and Donnelly scored the game's first two goals and Corey Millen added his 18th, his coming short-handed.
During the second period, the Jets asked referee Don Koharski to inspect Luc Robitaille's stick for an irregularity. The tactic has worked on three of four previous occasions for the Jets this season, but not this time. Koharski could find nothing wrong with Robitaille's stick, causing a delay of game penalty against Winnipeg.
"They thought my curve (on the blade of his stick) was illegal," Robitaille said. "I wanted to make sure they measured it right. I knew it was legal because every night I go out there it's legal."
The Kings could laugh that off, but not the ensuing rally in the final period.
Defenseman Rob Blake sat out his second game because of a strained shoulder that is expected to keep him out about one more week. At first, it was feared he would be out a lot longer after he was hurt Saturday in Montreal. "I kind of knew I could come back," Blake said. "The question was whether there would be any more damage if it (the shoulder) comes out again." Assured by team doctor Steve Lombardo there would not be any permanent damage as long as he spent the next week strengthening the shoulder, Blake decided to put off surgery until the end of the season.
Center John McIntyre sat out his fourth game because of a broken nose. . . . Defenseman Tim Watters drew a major penalty for high-sticking Pat Elynuik. It was Watters' second major stick foul, meaning an automatic one-game suspension. . . . Center Shawn McCosh, recalled last week from the Kings' Phoenix farm team, was the Roadrunners' leading scorer with 21 goals and a total of 53 points in 67 games. . . . Strip playoff tickets will be on sale at the Forum on Thursday only. Individual game tickets for the first two rounds will be available Friday at the Forum and at all Ticketmaster outlets. Buyers will be limited to two strip tickets or four individual tickets per game per person. Priority numbers will be handed out at the Forum both days at 9 a.m., one hour before the sales booth opens.