In the spirit of the Philadelphia-based film “Rocky,” the Kings took some punches and kept on fighting.
They shrugged off a score-tying goal allowed in the final minute and what first appeared to be a game-ending shootout miss by Adrian Kempe before they emerged from six rounds of a shootout with a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
It was a hard-earned way to two points, given the Flyers had won eight straight and the Kings were on their fourth game in six nights.
Here’s what we learned:
Tyler Toffoli picked a good time for his first shootout goal. It’s difficult to believe that Toffoli was scoreless in the format, but he was 0-for-10 in his career prior to Thursday. Toffoli skated in from the left side, made a quick stick handle and beat goalie Anthony Stolarz with a snap shot to end the game and his drought.
“I kind of just did the move I usually do when I get breakaways, and obviously it worked this time,” Toffoli said in a television interview.
Even though it was a shootout goal, it was in keeping with Toffoli’s sudden burst of production — four goals in five games — to give him 11 goals in 54 games.
The confidence is picking up. Three wins in the first four games on the East Coast will do that. The Kings have won four of five dating from Jan. 21, and their more confident demeanor is showing in their play, even without veterans Jeff Carter and Dion Phaneuf.
Granted, the past three wins have come against the bottom teams in the Metropolitan Division, and perhaps a one-two finish against the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals will be a truer test. But they did just defeat one of the hottest teams in the league, in their opponents’ building, without a power play (it was just the fifth time in Flyers history that they had no penalties in a game).
“When you win, you get a little bit more confidence, and I think everybody on the team’s playing really good on this road trip so far,” Kempe said. “You can feel the team game is really there now.”
If this is tanking, the Kings aren’t doing it right. The popular decry, “Lose For Hughes,” in reference to the expected top pick in next year’s draft, Jack Hughes, has lost some steam during this run. If the Kings want to have good odds at securing that No.1 pick, winning isn’t going to get them there.
But don’t ask them about so-called tanking. They remain in last place in the Western Conference with 50 points, but they’re only five points out of the last playoff berth as of Friday morning, with the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues occupying the final two spots in a logjam of eight teams separated by five points.
“We can kind of smell it a little,” Drew Doughty said of the playoffs.