The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is within sight.
That might be overstating things for the Kings, but after a year spent stewing over a missed postseason, their return would be doubly meaningful. They got to within one standings point of clinching a berth with a 3-1 win Monday against the Colorado Avalanche.
They lost another defenseman in the process when Derek Forbort suffered a lower-body injury, but the big picture was not lost on them afterward.
Here’s what we learned:
Defensemen worked overtime
Not literally, but the numbers were impressive: Alec Martinez logged 32 minutes, 11 seconds, which made Drew Doughty’s near 29-minute night seem like a light night by his standards.
Christian Folin was unsung with six hits and six blocked shots in 20 minutes, 15 seconds, his most ice time since Jan.24. Doughty played the left side for perhaps the first time in his career. It was all needed, not only because of Forbort’s absence but because of Dion Phaneuf’s seven minutes of penalties.
Kings coach John Stevens wasn’t aware of Martinez’s ice time until told postgame.
“We’re trying to get Marty in shape for the playoffs,” Stevens said jokingly.
Kyle Clifford has stepped into spotlight
Clifford’s backhand wraparound goal was one of his reel, and it was really the continuation of strong play from the fourth-line winger of late.
Stevens used Clifford on the top line last Friday against the Ducks because he wanted better wall play. Clifford is usually a plugger from the Darryl Sutter era but he does have his moments. He’s one goal short of his career-high seven.
“He’s been doing all the right things, and he’s been playing really hard, playoff-style hockey, so it was nice to see him get rewarded,” Torrey Mitchell said. “He’s got some skill. He can score goals like that. Everyone’s happy for him.”
Jonathan Quick underscored the win
Quick has been back to form for some time, but his game Monday was a reminder of how much he is the backbone of the defense. He stopped 27 of 28 shots, with the only goal allowed a wide-open look by Alexander Kerfoot, on an Avalanche power play.
That ended a run of 22 consecutive penalties killed by the Kings, and of course Quick has been a big part of that. He also helped smother an extra-attacker push by Colorado and got his 32nd win this season.