Kings get a close one to go their way

From Glendale, Ariz.

It took an extraordinarily good effort by Jarret Stoll’s line to interrupt the Kings’ extraordinarily bad slump.

Stoll launched himself into the air to backhand a loose puck past Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov at 4:57 of the third period Saturday, leading the Kings to a 4-3 victory that ended a three-game losing streak and was their third win in their last 13 games.

The Kings were cycling the puck well in the Coyotes’ zone when right wing Justin Williams captured it by the post and passed back to defenseman Jack Johnson, whose blast deflected off left wing Ryan Smyth and toward Stoll deep on the left side. Lunging in desperation, Stoll lifted a backhand shot beyond Bryzgalov’s reach.

“Just kind of like Bobby Orr — you know, diving,” Stoll said, referring to the Hall of Fame defenseman’s famous horizontal flight in scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Boston Bruins in 1970.

“I knew the puck was somewhere behind him. I didn’t know how long it would be there and I knew I had to get there quickly and if I had to dive, so be it, and got a stick on it.”


It was the Kings’ first one-goal victory since Dec. 23. They had lost five one-goal decisions since then, in addition to a good chunk of their confidence. They were again held scoreless on the power play and are 0 for 22 over seven games, but Stoll’s feat put smiles on players’ faces for the first time in a while.

“I think that’s what we had lacked when we were losing games like that. We didn’t have that shift that could really break it the other way for us,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “That line was great for us all night long.”

The Kings played an assertive first period at Arena and built a 3-0 lead against Bryzgalov, who had shut them out Thursday at Staples Center.

Williams scored at 1:22, set up by Smyth after the Coyotes turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Doughty made it 2-0 at 7:31 after Anze Kopitar won a faceoff in the Coyotes’ zone, taking a pass from Kopitar and faking before moving to his right and firing the puck through a crowd.

Alec Martinez extended that to 3-0 at 13:33 with a long wrist shot that found the space between Bryzgalov’s arm and the post, but the Coyotes got one goal back against Jonathan Quick before the period ended.

The Kings, victims of a controversial call Thursday, lost another video review Saturday when the play was scrutinized to see if Lee Stempniak had used his hand to punch the puck into the net. It was determined that Taylor Pyatt’s shot had gone off Stempniak’s glove, but that Stempniak had not pushed it into the net

“Maybe the first period came a little bit easier than we expected,” Stoll said. “We talked about it after the first and we knew we were going to see their best game in the second period, and we did. We didn’t really handle that well. We’ve got to be better at that.”

The Coyotes pulled within one at 3:05 of the second period on a backhand power-play goal by Martin Hanzal — he of the suspiciously high stick Thursday — and tied it at 18:17 of the second period when Stempniak scored off the rush from the top of the left circle.

But Quick, who stopped 12 shots in a sometimes scrambly third period, said he and his teammates remained confident they would prevail.

“We knew what we had to do and went out there and did it,” he said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction here. Obviously we have a long way to go. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to work our way back into that top eight.”

This could have been the moment the Kings’ comeback began. Or just a flash of light in the darkness.

It’s their choice, their season.