Two impressions were clearly made after the Kings pulled out a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild:
One, Dustin Brown is quite a story. Two, the Kings won’t go very far in the postseason with late lapses such as they had Thursday.
But all that really matters is two standings points. With 98 points and one game remaining, second place in the Pacific Division and home-ice advantage is still in play for the Kings, but it depends on how they, the Ducks and the San Jose Sharks finish on Saturday.
Let’s save those complications for later. The Kings are 6-1-2 since March 19 and have points in eight of last nine games.
Here’s what we learned:
It wasn’t just Brown’s scoring that told the story. His game-winning score to finish his first four-goal game will be part of his personal legacy. A closer look reveals that Brown also drew two penalties, including a hook by Carson Soucy late in the third period. Brown also delivered a huge hit on Tyler Ennis in a second period in which he also scored his second and third goals.
It’s the complete game the Kings knew Brown would eventually summon after he had his captaincy taken away in the wake of one of the worst seasons of his career. He reached a career-high 61 points.
“I felt better even starting back last year,” Brown said. “I got an opportunity this year to play big minutes and be a huge part of the team. That’s probably the more important thing, is that I was able to help the team make the playoffs. It’s [Anze Kopitar], Drew [Doughty], [Jonathan Quick], they are our best players. We’re going to win most nights [with them]. It’s the secondary guys like me — that next group that [will] push. That’s how you have a good team.”
That third period wasn’t Kings hockey. With a playoff berth already clinched, Kings coach John Stevens has placed a priority on getting their game in form. With a letdown final period, his players didn’t follow through. They allowed a shorthanded goal that tied the score.
“I thought we got a little bit sloppy there,” Stevens said. “That was probably my fault a little bit. I was going to call a timeout there and get those guys ready. … I think we lacked a little urgency on that power play and let them back in the game. Special teams are going to be important. Shorthanded goals in the playoffs can kill you.”
The back end has contributed. The Kings got five assists from defensemen. Doughty reached the 50-point plateau for the first time, and Christian Folin got two assists.
The Kings have 187 points from defensemen this season, compared with 155 last season, in perhaps an indicator of the new regime’s philosophy to open up the offense. In his debut, Daniel Brickley picked up a secondary assist for his first NHL point.
“It’s a really good reference point for him to get into a game this time of year,” Stevens said. “He’s a big kid, but guys are big in this league, and [the Wild have] some big forwards. It’s a lot different than college. But he came in and played with confidence. I think the strength of his game is going to be the composure he has when he has the puck, and the rest of the stuff we can teach him.”