Grit ringing true for Kings
In six seasons Dustin Brown has seen the Kings’ playoff hopes disintegrate slowly. He has seen their hopes crumble quickly. He has seen them so bad they made plans for April vacations in December.
The Kings’ captain is seeing something different this season, something he can’t name. Resilience. Determination, maybe. A knowledge that success is within their reach and worth the unrelenting effort it demands.
That attitude was on display Saturday at Staples Center. After Boston scored twice in 11 seconds during the second period the Kings pulled even on gritty third-period goals by Brown and Anze Kopitar. Those two scored in the shootout for a 4-3 victory that kept the Kings in the top eight in the West.
It was the fourth time this season the Kings won a game they trailed after two periods and a noteworthy comeback against one of the NHL’s top defensive teams.
“It seems like a lot of games lately, this year, with this team, we’re down by a couple goals when you hit that 10-minute mark and all of a sudden, and it’s hard to put a finger on, but we find a way,” said Brown, who cut the Bruins’ lead to 3-2 at 10:32 of the third period and scored the shootout clincher through the leg pads of Tim Thomas, his U.S. Olympic teammate.
“Tonight’s probably one of those games that we’ll look back at the end of the year if we’re sitting in a playoff spot saying, ‘Those were huge.’ ”
No one knows that better than Brad Richardson, who assisted on the first and last goals. “You never want to look back at the end of the year and go you missed by one or two points. I’ve been there,” he said, referring to his tenure with the Colorado Avalanche in 2006-07. “It’s never fun.”
The Kings sandwiched a good first period and strong third period around a flat middle.
Jarret Stoll gave them a lead 11:42 into the game after Scott Parse took the puck to the net and Stoll poked his rebound inside the right post. The Bruins pulled even at 18:20, when Miroslav Satan rifled a 35-foot wrist shot past Jonathan Quick’s glove.
Goals on successive shots midway through the second period put Boston ahead, 3-1, elating the many Bruins fans in the announced sellout crowd.
Boston took the lead after Kopitar and Raitis Ivanans had chances to clear the zone but failed. David Krejci took control of the puck and passed to Blake Wheeler, whose shot deflected into the net off Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell at 10:53.
Krejci beat Michal Handzus on the ensuing faceoff and passed to Johnny Boychuk, who made a terrific diagonal pass to Wheeler along the left-wing boards. Wheeler found Michael Ryder for a redirection down low at 11:04.
“I think we got away from our game in the second period. Stopped getting pucks to the net, stopped coming into the zone, tried to get fancy as opposed to just chipping it and going to get it,” Brown said. “That’s probably our lull.”
But it wasn’t their downfall. Nor was a failure to capitalize on two five-on-three advantages totaling 1 minute 50 seconds late in the second period and early in the third. They’re two for 18 with the two-man advantage this season and were scoreless on five power-play chances overall Saturday.
They did move the puck well during the five-on-three advantages and built on that flow.
Brown, struggling to find the net most of the season, scored his third goal in four games at 10:32 off a fine feed from Alexander Frolov. Kopitar tied it at 12:54 with his seventh point in his last seven games, a chance created by winger Wayne Simmonds’ strong work along the boards and good centering pass.
“Believing we can come back and when we tied it up, knowing we can win that game, it’s a mind-set and it makes a big difference,” Kopitar said.
Kopitar led off the shootout with a back-hander through Thomas’ legs; the puck dribbled off the end of Krejci’s stick on Boston’s turn. Jack Johnson shot wide right and Quick made an arm stop on Satan’s 10-foot wrist shot, putting the game on Brown’s stick. He rose to the occasion.
Quick earned a share of the league lead with his sixth shootout victory and the Kings earned the right to say they’re in a playoff position, though that might change from day to day.
“That battle for that final two, three playoffs spots is going to stay interesting right through to the end,” Coach Terry Murray said. “I would like to move away from that ‘interesting.’ ”
But as long as the Kings stay close to the pack, they will reinforce Brown’s belief that there’s something different and good about this team, this season.