Drew Doughty went straight to the corner, arms raised and fists pounding on the glass. His crazed moves were calculated, a cathartic release of the tension that had been building all night.
Earlier in the evening, the Kings had been up by three goals, only to let the Calgary Flames come all the way back and force overtime. Throughout the game, Doughty had been jeered by the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd, treatment befitting of his status as the foil to Flames star Matthew Tkachuk.
So when Doughty delivered the game-winning goal of the Kings’ 4-3 victory Tuesday night, their first victory of the year and of the Todd McLellan era, he didn’t curb his celebration.
“As much as you love getting booed every time you touch the puck,” Doughty said, “you kind of want to shove it in their faces.”
The emotional ending distracted from the rest of the Kings’ polarized performance during their second game of the season.
McLellan took satisfaction in the result — “we needed to get rewarded for some of the things we were doing well,” he said — and was heartened by the team’s unrelenting start.
Long before Doughty’s goal, the Kings opened the game with a 25-minute exhibition of McLellan’s preferred style of play. They pestered the Calgary Flames into turnovers. They strung together passes and flew through the neutral zone. They peppered the net, at one point outshooting the Flames 25-4. They put away several of their chances too.
Winger Tyler Toffoli struck first, taking a pass from linemate Ilya Kovalchuk, who was double-shifting in McLellan’s 11-forward and seven-defenseman lineup Tuesday night, before snapping a shot past Flames goalie David Rittich. Later, Kings defenseman Sean Walker pinched in the offensive zone, picked up the puck in the corner and banked in a sharp-angle shot off Rittich’s side.
“A great start,” McLellan said. “We needed that. It healed the wounds of the Edmonton [loss on Saturday] real quick and gave us some confidence.”
Kovalchuk made it 3-0 early in the second. After Rittich got his blocker to a shot from the point, Kovalchuk whacked the deflected puck out of the air near the back post. The score was upheld after video review, giving the forward his first goal of the season.
Then the tide turned, the rest of regulation becoming a sudden enigmatic grind.
Tkachuk sparked the Flames’ rally midway through the second period. The playmaking forward picked up a loose puck in the slot and put it past the blocker of Kings goalie Jack Campbell, who was making his season debut and getting his first live-game action in nearly two weeks. Minutes later, Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin fired a wide-angle shot on net. Campbell lost the puck under his pads, allowing it to slip across the goal line and cut the Kings’ lead to one.
In the third, the Flames generated one chance after another. A Kovalchuk defensive-zone turnover led to a Flames shot from the point that skipped just wide of the net. Campbell denied Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson’s attempt from the right-wing circle. Tkachuk put a rebound attempt just wide of a partially open net.
During one six-plus-minute stretch of uninterrupted play, the Flames nearly scored a half-dozen times. With less than two minutes left, they pulled their goalie. Finally, the dam broke. Fittingly, it was Tkachuk who tied the game, burying a loose puck in front of the net with 1:04 remaining.
In the final 30 seconds of regulation, however, Flames forward Sam Bennett tripped Anze Kopitar. The Kings’ ensuing power-play extended into overtime, where it became a 4-on-3. Doughty teed up an initial one-timer that Rittich saved. When Kopitar fed him the puck again, Doughty didn’t miss. He clobbered a slap shot that deflected off the stick of a Flames penalty killer and into the top corner of the net.
The Saddledome booed him again. This time, Doughty didn’t care.
“Before that overtime started, I knew I had a great opportunity,” he said. “I was like, ‘Every time I get that puck, I’m ripping it.’ [Kopitar] made a great pass. It was a lucky shot … but luck comes to good people, I guess. And good teams.”