Kings end slump with 4-3 victory over the Coyotes

Who thought that scoring three goals in regulation would have turned into such a daunting task for the Kings, almost becoming an Everest-like crusade?

Leave it to Willie Mitchell, the defenseman who went to the mountains during the holiday break, to get the Kings out of base camp and out of their scoring stupor. Mitchell’s early third-period goal helped lead the Kings to a 4-3 victory against Phoenix on Monday night at Staples Center.

The Kings are 2-0-1 in the early days of the Darryl Sutter era. But excitement over elements of progress they have made in that brief period with the new Kings coach was dampened by the loss of left wing Simon Gagne.


Gagne, who was initially injured in the first period, could be out for some time with what is thought to be a head injury. The Kings, like many teams in the NHL, often use the term “upper-body injury.” In fact, they never used the word “concussion” in regard to center Mike Richards, who missed eight games in December because of one.

This season, Gagne has played in 34 games and has seven goals and 17 points and has a well-known concussion history. He attempted to play in the second period and was credited with six shifts and 4:26 of ice time.

The Kings are scheduled to leave Tuesday on a two-game trip to Chicago and Winnipeg and, regarding Gagne, Sutter after the game would only say that the player got banged up in the first period.

On Monday, they received scoring from unexpected sources. Mitchell, who had his second of the season, wasn’t the only defenseman to score, being joined by Rob Scuderi, who scored his first goal of the season, and forward Brad Richardson scored his second of the season.

“We still could tighten up quite a bit,” Scuderi said. “We were pretty careless with the puck at times, myself included, and that’s not going to cut it during the course of this season.

“Like I said, the biggest thing in here is an attitude. I know we are trying to turn the page. It’s unfortunate it cost someone their job.”

Then there were the usual suspects on offense: Captain and forward Dustin Brown scored his ninth goal of the season and team scoring leader Anze Kopitar added two assists.

The Kings had scored two regulation goals or fewer in 14 consecutive games and were one period away from No. 15 before Mitchell’s wrist shot from the right circle beat Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera on the glove side at 1:48, making it 3-2.

Dizzy with that success, the Kings added another goal. They took a 4-2 lead and chased LaBarbera, a former King, from the game when Brown scored at 7:06. Apparently, the book on LaBarbera, at least on this night, was to attack from the right-wing side.

Phoenix replaced LaBarbera, who faced 29 shots, after Brown’s goal, with Curtis McElhinney, who was recalled from the minors earlier in the day.

Still, little has come easy for the Kings this season. Thirty-three seconds after Brown’s goal, the Coyotes cut the Kings’ lead to 4-3 when Daymond Langkow scored off a Mikkel Boedker rebound at 7:39 of the third period.

Said Raffi Torres, who scored twice for the Coyotes: “Obviously they [the Kings] have gone through stuff. But when you look down their sheet, they’re pretty deep We gotta be careful with that team. If they get hot, they can be pretty dangerous down the stretch.”