After playing another listless first period in which they were outplayed (again), the Kings strung together two magnificent periods (again) to rally to a come-from-behind victory (again) Thursday, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 to keep a hold on the Pacific Division’s third and final postseason invitation.
Here are three other things that stood out in the game:
1. The Kings can’t continue to simply give away the first period.
The Kings have allowed 62 first-period goals this season, including two in the opening 20 minutes Thursday when they were outshot 13-8. They’ve given up 93 goals in the other two periods combined after allowing nothing in the second and third periods Thursday when they outscored Columbus 5-0.
“It wasn’t one guy, it was our team,” coach John Stevens said. “I think the room was ready, we were just a step off. Our whole game pace needed to come up a step, and it did.”
The Kings have won a league-best 11 times after trailing heading into the second period and 18 times — half their victories overall — after allowing the first goal.
2. The special teams are, well, special.
The penalty kill, which is second-best in the NHL, killed off three-man advantage situations Thursday and contributed a short-handed goal from Jeff Carter and another score from Nate Thompson 22 seconds after killing off a penalty early in the second period. And the Kings went ahead on a power-play goal from Tanner Pearson midway through the middle stanza.
“It’s a big momentum push for us,” said Alex Iafallo, who had the first multigoal in his NHL career. “Having a good penalty kill and gaining momentum on the power play helped us out. We have to keep doing that.”
Added defenseman Christian Folin, who had a career-high three assists: “The PK in the second period, we really needed a good momentum shift and we got that. Killed it off and got the first goal and that’s important. We got the crowd into it, and we kind of took it from there.”
3. A bunch of players are stepping up.
Carter’s goal was his third in as many games since coming back from injury a week ago. Thompson’s goal was his first as a King, while Folin and Iafallo had the best offensive nights of their careers. Add it all up and the Kings have won three straight and four of the last six at home to maintain a thin advantage in a playoff race in which six teams are separated by just three points.
Carter’s return after spending 55 games on the sidelines had been important both on and off the ice, Stevens said.
“His presence as a player has been really good for us, but I think his presence in the room has also been a really welcome addition,” the coach said.