There’s been no place like home for the Kings this season.
That’s not necessarily a good thing, though, because of the 11 teams still in the running in the tight Western Conference playoff race, only the Calgary Flames have a worse home record than the Kings.
Yet it’s also a trend that may be ending for the Kings, who rallied Thursday night for a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to extend their modest winning streak to three games — with Jeff Carter scoring a goal in all three.
It was the Kings’ fourth victory in their last six games at Staples Center, where they will play 11 of their final 17 games, and marked a positive start to a five-game homestand that equals their longest of the season.
“We really have to make sure we take care of business at home,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Our guys love playing at home.
“Our fan base is exciting to play in front of.”
Christian Folin, who finished with three assists, agreed.
“They deserve better. Absolutely,” he said of the home crowd. “A lot of guys like playing in this building. It’s a fun building. It’s been loud the last few games.
“If we’re going to have a long run we need to have some good games in this building.”
Tanner Pearson scored what proved to be the winner on a power play late in the second period, erasing what had been a 2-0 deficit. The Kings also got two goals from Alex Iafallo — who was promoted to the top line and responded with the first multi-goal game of his career — and one each from Nate Thompson and Carter.
“We’ve got to make sure we stay positive and keep improving,” Iafallo said. “We’ve got to turn it up here every shift, right from the drop of the puck.”
The Kings, who have given up 62 first-period goals, hadn’t even broken a sweat before falling behind. After an Anze Kopitar turnover deep in the Kings’ end, Columbus’ Artemi Panarin wound up with the puck behind the net and made a nifty back-hand flip to set up Cam Atkinson’s goal at 3:41.
The shot was Columbus’ sixth of the game. The Kings didn’t get their sixth until the final five minutes of the period. By then the deficit had doubled with Seth Jones beating Jonathan Quick high to his stick side from the high slot at 13:33.
And that brings us to another trend, because no team in the NHL has erased more first-period deficits to win than the Kings, who did it for the 11th time.
“We were a step, maybe two steps slow in the first period,” Stevens said. “We were late to pucks, we were late to checks. They were playing the game at a lot higher pace then we were. Our whole game pace had to come up a step and it did.”
Thompson and Iafallo started the comeback, scoring early second-period goals to pull the Kings even.
Thompson’s goal, his first as a King, came only 2:48 after the first intermission when he wristed a shot from the right-wing boards off the far post and into the net. Iafallo tied the score less than three minutes later, tipping in the rebound of a Folin shot.
Pearson then put the Kings ahead to stay with a power-play goal, redirecting a Drew Doughty slap shot with 3 1/2 minutes left in the period.
Carter, who returned from injury less than a week ago, added to the lead with a short-handed goal midway through the third period before Iafallo closed out the scoring.
Kings sign Vilardi
Forward Gabe Vilardi, a first-round selection in the 2017 NHL draft, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings. The 18-year-old has appeared in 134 regular-season games in the Ontario Hockey League with Windsor and currently with his hometown Kingston Frontenacs. Vilardi has 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 23 games with Kingston this season despite sitting out the first half because of an injury.