Kings on brink of playoffs after victory over Colorado
One point away and another defenseman down.
The final week of the playoff race is getting more complicated than the Kings would like, although their scenario got much simpler Monday night with a 3-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche.
With one more standings point, the Kings will clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2016, or it could happen by virtue of another team’s loss.
But the Kings took care of their own business at Staples Center with goals by Torrey Mitchell, Dustin Brown and Kyle Clifford to reach 96 points, the exact number pegged by coach John Stevens to reach the playoffs.
“I think it’s a big step,” Brown said. “Things have to go wrong for us, and really good for other teams.
“But, again, you’re never in until you get in.”
The win was not without cost to the Kings.
Derek Forbort suffered a lower-body injury less than four minutes into the game, on a check into the boards by Gabriel Bourque.
Afterward, Stevens did not have an update on Forbort’s status.
He could see the end goal in sight, though.
“I think we’re all excited for the fact that we’re in this fight,” Stevens said. “We can control our own destiny. We’ve had that approach all along here.”
Clifford’s backhanded wraparound goal two minutes into the third period basically sealed it.
Colorado, without injured goalie Semyon Varlamov and defenseman Erik Johnson, made a push in the second period but got only Alexander Kerfoot’s power-play goal, which ended a run of 22 consecutive penalties killed by the Kings over eight-plus games.
With the Kings short-handed, Brown beat former teammate Jonathan Bernier with a wrist shot launched between the legs of Colorado’s Tyson Barrie from above the left circle.
That included an unusual bounce that ended up in Bernier’s net for the Kings’ first goal.
Nate Thompson’s long shot hopped off the end boards and right to the goal crease for Mitchell to tap in.
The beginning wasn’t all fortuitous for the Kings because of the injury to Forbort, who recently had formed a terrific partnership with fellow defenseman Drew Doughty.
The Kings went down to four defensemen for seven minutes in the first period because that’s how much time Dion Phaneuf spent in the penalty box. His big hit on Mikko Rantanen meant he had to fight Nikita Zadorov, and Phaneuf also took a boarding penalty on Nathan MacKinnon.
“Credit to our defensemen — they were pretty much double-shifting the whole game,” Mitchell said. “They did a great job back there.”
The Kings defense again was without Jake Muzzin, who skated after practice in the morning, as did injured forward Alex Iafallo. Stevens didn’t have a definitive update on either player.
Stevens put Paul LaDue in the lineup for a second consecutive game.
The rookie was thrown into the most intense NHL game of his career last Friday, against the Ducks, and Monday’s game was also high stakes.
“Those games are huge to get in,” he said. “I take pride in playing in those games.”
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