Being a man down turned out to be the best thing to happen to the Kings.
It was quite a twist to a Kings season gone wrong, but they’ll take any approach that leads them out of this abyss.
After having their momentum crushed by Zach Werenski’s goal 29 seconds into the third period Saturday, the Kings came back against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a shorthanded goal by Anze Kopitar and a penalty shot score by Dustin Brown.
A 4-1 win at Staples Center breathed new life into the Kings, who woke up Saturday as the NHL’s worst team, with seven points. But they might have staved off an impending shakeup and, in the meantime, felt good about getting back to their game.
“Everybody in this room loves to win, and we needed it,” Jack Campbell said. “It’s a big win. We’ve got to keep it going here.
“But just making that adjustment, seeing the success that we can have doing it, trust in the system and having a great game, it’s really exciting.”
Brown and Kopitar sparked it with a shorthanded rush that resulted in Kopitar’s second-chance goal at 7:44 of the third period, a goal that Brown said “completely changed the momentum of the whole feel of the game.”
Almost a minute later, Brown was slashed on a shorthanded breakaway and beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky between the pads on the ensuing penalty shot.
“I was planning on shooting,” Brown said. “But Bobrovsky came out really far. He was really aggressive, so I kind of switched it up last second. I have a couple of moves I can do off it, but it kind of just worked out for me.”
Brown and Kopitar have played on the penalty killing unit together for years, so it wasn’t surprising that they led the response.
“They put good pressure on the puck,” coach John Stevens said. “They read off each other really well and they created some offense from it tonight. But aside from the offense, I just loved the way they started things out for us, where we got pressure and clears for us right away.”
The Kings didn’t play perfectly, but they got a good start and didn’t fall apart.
It was monumental that they ended their streak of getting scored on in 24 consecutive periods in the opening 20 minutes, and they also got goals by Jeff Carter, Alex Iafallo and another strong game by Campbell.
Ilya Kovalchuk showed off his underrated passing ability with a beautiful cross-ice pass to Carter for a power-play goal in the second period. Kovalchuk found Carter on the left side, and Carter had time to gather and wrist the puck past the blocker side of Bobrovsky for a 2-0 lead.
Despite Carter’s hooking penalty on the first shift of the game, the Kings turned in their best opening period in weeks and Iafallo provided the game’s first goal for the first time since their Oct.11 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
“I think it kind of changed a lot of the chances we gave up,” Campbell said. “I don’t think we gave up much. When we did have a breakdown or something, we were in the right position. They’d have a stick on the puck. Guys were in shot lanes, blocking shots. I think that’s huge.”
Matt Luff became the fifth Kings player to make his NHL debut this season. He played with Adrian Kempe and Tanner Pearson on the third line.