Beware the seemingly ordinary, almost harmless-looking game against an Eastern Conference foe in early December.
The Kings and the Florida Panthers are not exactly associated with bad blood, bile and belligerence. By the time the Kings skated away with a 2-1 victory — and their goalie Jonathan Quick making 41 saves and adding a rare assist — the win ended up being an especially costly one at Staples Center on Thursday night.
Let us count the ways.
Not only did another defenseman, Willie Mitchell, fall by the wayside early on, the Kings lost center and spiritual leader Mike Richards for the third period. Richards took a hit to the head late in the second and the Kings said he was being evaluated.
Afterward, the team only said Richards had an upper-body injury and Kings Coach Terry Murray said they would “have a better idea tomorrow,” regarding the injury.
Mitchell played one shift in the first period, a mere 51 seconds, and that was it for him. The Kings announced that he had a lower-body injury but it was unclear whether he sustained the injury in the game or whether it was an existing issue.
It looked more clear-cut with Richards, a byproduct of an incident along the boards with Panthers left wing Sean Bergenheim with 3:08 remaining in the second.
The twin injuries overshadowed what was an often erratic effort as the Kings received an early first-period goal from Jack Johnson, survived a second-period lull and added to the lead late in the second period when Dustin Brown scored his fifth of the season. Quick assisted on Brown’s goal, his sixth career assist.
Quick’s bid for a second straight shutout ended when Bergenheim scored on a rebound at 15:39 of the second period. Quick was tested and then some but was helped by the Kings’ continued excellence killing penalties.
Florida went 0 for 6 on the power play and the Kings have now killed off 24 straight penalties.
“You guys know more stats than I do,” Brown said.
The Kings, who are on a two-game winning streak, have won six of their last nine games. But this one was a scrappy one. “It wasn’t pretty tonight, by any means,” Brown said.
That had a lot to do with the injuries, naturally.
Quick praised the stellar effort of the five remaining defensemen who had to play big minutes after Mitchell left the game.
“They stepped up huge there,” Quick said. “That’s a big hole on the blue line that we lose for a majority of the game. Guys played big minutes and they played them well and we got two points out of it.”
Said Johnson: “We’ve got four guys that were banged up but it’s just fluke things.”
But Johnson said it helped narrow his focus.
“It’s more fun. You get more engaged in the game and you get into it,” he said. “It’s not any fun when you are halfway through the period and you feel like you haven’t broken a sweat yet. We don’t want guys out. But you learn to pace yourself and the game goes on with five D. Hopefully [Mitchell] gets back sooner than later.”