Kings beat Flyers, 2-1, for fifth win a row and lead Pacific Division by 12 points

Kings beat Flyers, 2-1, for fifth win a row and lead Pacific Division by 12 points
Kings center Tyler Toffoli bringsthe puck up ice against Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the third period Saturday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

There are still parts of their game the Kings would like to smooth out, some moments they critiqued after they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center to stretch their winning streak to five games.

But the most important fix has been made, and that's to their approach to this season.


Unlike last season, when they meandered along and were shocked when they failed to grab a playoff spot, they're taking care of business early and often. They were assured of a 12-point lead atop the Pacific Division following Saturday's games, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau that's the largest division lead in franchise history.

"Usually Anaheim's run away with it by now, so we're trying to make sure," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of securing a postseason berth without their usual drama. "It hasn't changed. We're trying to be a playoff team. You don't want to be fighting for third spot. We tried it last year and it doesn't work."

Building a big lead is a novel and less nerve-wracking way to do things for a team that sneaked into the 2012 playoffs as the eighth seed before winning the Stanley Cup and qualified as the third-place team in the Pacific in 2013-14 before winning the Cup again.

"It just means guys are playing the right way," said left wing Dwight King, who scored the team's first goal Saturday and has scored twice in three games since recovering from a broken bone in his leg.

Being ahead of the pack means they can correct things like the lull they had in the second period Saturday without fear it could keep them out of the playoffs. "I think maybe parts of the past couple games and then tonight we weren't as sharp as we need to be," defenseman Alec Martinez said, "but that's something that we can turn around."

The 4-0 trip they completed last week against division foes Arizona, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary helped boost their confidence and their lead. And although the Flyers aren't a division or conference rival, the Kings on Saturday played as if Philadelphia were blocking their path to the playoffs. They've outscored opponents, 20-7, during this streak; goaltender Jonathan Quick has earned all five wins, stopping 145 of 152 shots in that span (.954 save percentage).

"I think if you look at the top of the league, the teams that are at the top in goals-against are playing lots and don't have much dip in their game and he's certainly been that," Sutter said of Quick. "He knew since Christmas he was going to play every game for us."

Quick's teammates gave him early support Saturday. Marian Gaborik made King's goal possible when he intercepted a pass by Philadelphia defenseman Radko Gudas high in the zone and fed the puck to King, creating a three-on-one for them and Trevor Lewis. King saw goalie Michael Neuvirth play it as if Lewis would shoot. "So I had a little more net to shoot at," said King, who scored at 7:33 of the first period.

Drew Doughty made it 2-0 at 17:16 of the first period on a one-timer from the left circle during a power play. Neuvirth made a fine glove save on Anze Kopitar in the final minute of the second period to prevent the Kings from expanding their lead, which proved important when former King Brayden Schenn capitalized on a power-play chance off a scramble in front at 7:50 of the third period.

Quick stopped Philadelphia's other 15 shots in the third period to ensure a victory for the Kings, who were without injured center Jeff Carter for the fourth straight game. "He didn't have a lot of work in the first two periods but when he needed to come up big in the end, in the third like he did, that's what we need him for," Doughty said of Quick.

The Kings had needed scoring from the left side, too, and King has provided that since his return. He said his teammates "played pretty well" during his absence. "It's a long season and they've progressed throughout it," King said. "Their record is good. Everybody is kind of bonding with each other, linemates getting used to each other, things like that. I think they were playing really good hockey before I came back."

They're playing well enough to have a substantial division lead and equally big chance of becoming the playoff team Sutter wants them to be.

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