Their theme music wasn’t playing in the locker room, at least not when outsiders were allowed in.
The Kings have adopted Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business” as their song, and it well described the businesslike demeanor of how they finished off a seven-game trip Tuesday night with a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg was rested and waiting for the Kings, who played Monday night at Chicago in one of the crueler portions of their schedule. Yet the Kings survived a first-period blitz by the Jets thanks to goalie Darcy Kuemper and motored home with power-play goals by Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf before Torrey Mitchell and Dustin Brown struck in the third.
Seven games. Eleven days. Maybe they were too fatigued to celebrate.
“It’s been a long road trip, but there’s no nights off with this playoff race,” Kuemper said. “We knew we had a chance to get into the playoff picture here tonight, so we were pretty determined to do that.”
Brown did what the Kings did all night and went to the net. His goal in front with 4:06 to play, off Tyler Toffoli’s feed, was the winner and gave linemate and longtime teammate Anze Kopitar his 800th point in his 900th NHL game.
Mitchell produced his second goal in as many games, and the Martinez-Phaneuf pairing continued to shine. Phaneuf’s third goal in four games as a King came on his characteristic booming shot.
Kings coach John Stevens gave high marks for their response from an opening period in which Kuemper stopped 15 of 16 shots, the goal scored on a Winnipeg two-man advantage.
“I thought it was probably one of the better wins of the year just in terms of the way it started it out,” Stevens said. “Not just winning the game, but I thought we got better as the game went along and really had a good push throughout the hockey game, which is good to see.”
A bottom-six energy player, Mitchell has thrived on a line with Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli. Stevens put Mitchell there because of the trio’s speed, and Mitchell has shown he still has good wheels at 32. He scooped up Kempe’s rebound in a scramble late in the third period for a 3-2 lead and added an arm-pumping celebration.
“I was just excited,” Mitchell said. “I hadn’t scored a big goal like that in a while, so it felt good.”
Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine made the score 4-3 on a power-play goal with 49 seconds left, but Kuemper improved to 10-1-3.
The Kings moved into a guaranteed top-three playoff spot in the Pacific Division, if only for the day. In the bigger picture, they overcame three consecutive losses by winning the last three games on the trip and took on a new identity with the additions of Phaneuf and Nate Thompson.
Kopitar and Brown remain the bread-and-butter, and Brown appeared to retrieve the puck for Kopitar after Kopitar assisted on his goal. Kopitar doesn’t put much into personal accolades but he acknowledged the keepsake.
“Looking back, a kid from Slovenia, just to make it to NHL and stick and let alone play 900 games,” he said, “I guess that’s a pretty nice accomplishment.”