This was not a warm and fuzzy reception for Willie Desjardins, judging by the smattering of boos when he was recognized on the video board at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.
In the end, however, those boos were Browned out.
For the second straight game, Dustin Brown pulled the Kings away from the distraction that is Desjardins’ stubborn lineup decisions. Brown buried a rebound by Alec Martinez 53 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks that gave the Kings two straight wins under Desjardins for the first time.
“We’ve got to build it,” Brown said. “It’s more important that it’s two division wins because the position we’re in … the only way we’re ever going to get back in is if we beat our division teams.”
Brown’s winner, two nights after his hat trick, gave the top line six goals and five assists in the last two games. Alex Iafallo scored in the first period, on a puck battle won by Brown at the end boards and, again, goalie Cal Petersen was exceptional.
The rookie made 32 saves, perhaps none bigger than a glove stop on Loui Eriksson when the puck ramped off Martinez’s stick. Petersen was beaten only by a deflection by Markus Granlund with 3:43 to go in regulation as Vancouver dominated the final period. But in a just turn of events, Petersen didn’t have to face a shot in overtime.
“I think the whole time it was our game to win,” Petersen said. “I think it was just a matter of time, really. Obviously for them to get one that late in the game could be deflating, but I think we’ve been through too much as a team to let stuff like that continue to bother us.”
Desjardins’ three seasons in Vancouver were marked by curious lineups, namely his penchant to play role players over top-six forwards. That has carried over to the Kings and his perplexing move of Ilya Kovalchuk to the fourth line. Kovalchuk was there again Tuesday, with Sheldon Rempal and Nate Thompson, and played just more than nine minutes.
Desjardins said before the game, “I think it gives us the best chance down the road” but also said it’s a difficult decision to make with a 422-goal scorer.
“When you’ve always been a top-two line guy, for sure, all of a sudden somebody puts you on the fourth line, it’s going to be hard for him to find his game,” Desjardins said.
Desjardins said he enjoyed his time here, but he probably raised a few eyebrows when he graded himself well for a tenure that ended in his firing.
One lineup move Desjardins can’t get wrong is his goaltenders, and more help is on the way. Jonathan Quick was activated off injured reserve and is expected to play Thursday or Friday, about one month after surgery for torn meniscus in his knee.
“I feel healthy out there,” Quick said at the morning skate. “I’m happy to be practicing with these guys full-time and get the opportunity to come on the road.”
The day was rounded out by Desjardins when asked about getting a win in his former home.
“Vancouver always means something different to me than other clubs whenever you come back in here, but lots of good guys in that room over there and I know that and I know they hate to lose as well, but I certainly enjoyed a win,” he said.