Proceedings were going so well, humming along so efficiently.
The Kings were doing exactly what they needed to do against a nervous-looking goalie making his NHL debut. They applied the pressure and kept it on 20-year-old Sami Aittokallio, scoring twice in a three-shot span against the Colorado goalie in the first period. The goals were by Jeff Carter on the power play and Mike Richards at even strength.
There was, however, the middling matter of the final two periods, and, overtime.
What seemed like a small concern turned into a large one. The lackluster Kings squandered the first-period cushion they built, needing to go to a shootout and finally beating the road-challenged Avalanche, 3-2, at Staples Center on Thursday night.
The Kings, who had lost their last two shootouts to Minnesota and the Ducks, found redemption as Carter, Dustin Brown and a patient Anze Kopitar scored against Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped Matt Duchene and allowed a goal by P.A. Parenteau. Quick had been unable to stop any of Minnesota’s three shooters in a loss at St. Paul on March30 and angrily destroyed his stick afterward.
For Colorado, Paul Stastny scored with 3:22 remaining in the second period, digging hard at the right post, and Patrick Bordeleau pulled them even, 2-2, at 5:05 of the third period as the Avalanche was helped by a deflection off the stick of Kings forward Kyle Clifford. It was Bordeleau’s first career goal.
The swoon for the Kings started in the second period. They did not get a shot on goal until Kopitar mustered one with 7:05 remaining in the period. This was a more of a gradual breakdown, not like the third-period fire drill of a collapse in a 5-1 loss Tuesday at Dallas.
“We sat back in the second period. They came at us and we played a pretty good third period,” Richards, who had a goal and an assist, said in his post-game TV interview. “They still got that one goal. Like you said, it wasn’t easy on us. But we got the two points and that’s all that matters right now.”
But this was not like a Dallas team fighting for a playoff berth. This was the same Colorado group with three victories on the road during this lockout-shortened season. And victory No. 3 came Wednesday night at Anaheim, just two days after Giguere called out his teammates, saying they were more worried about their postseason trip to Las Vegas than playing the remaining games.
Apparently his words had some staying power.
Then Giguere, who got the win against the Ducks, had the opportunity to back it up some more. But his entrance into the game came in an unexpected way when Aittokallio was injured with 10:36 remaining in regulation.
It appeared as though the left leg of the Finnish goalie buckled underneath him. He stayed down for several minutes and needed assistance to get off the ice and to return to the dressing room. The team said he suffered cramps in both legs because of dehydration.
Aittokallio faced 25 shots, settling down after a rough start, in which the Kings outshot the Avalanche, 15-4, in the opening period.
Carter’s goal was one of his vintage wrist shots, a wicked offering from the left circle, finding just enough space up high inside the far post. It was Carter’s 24th goal of the season and fifth in the last eight games.
Richards, who assisted on Carter’s goal, followed 1:47 later with his 10th of the season, beating Aittokallio on the glove side, a result of a broken play. He has recorded points in the last five games.