Forget the Gordie Howe hat trick of last season.
In many ways, what forward Kyle Clifford did against the San Jose Sharks in Saturday’s 5-2 win by the Kings was more impressive than his homage to Howe nearly 14 months ago against Ottawa.
Then? Goal, assist and fight, a clear Howe hat trick.
Now? Two goals, an exhausting scrap against behemoth defenseman Douglas Murray and a superb defensive play against Joe Pavleski at Staples Center. That play to help shut down Pavelski came shortly before Clifford’s second goal of the game to make it 4-1 at 13 minutes 45 seconds of the second period.
You almost wondered whether Clifford was going to go lift cars in the parking lot afterward. Or maybe he was going to down a big steak like he did after winning a bet against former teammate Kevin Westgarth last season in regard to the Howe hat trick.
Certainly, something special should be in order after his second-period fight against the intimidating 6-foot-3 Murray, as Clifford gave up about 33 pounds to Murray.
He managed to survive the long bout with his body parts intact.
“We kinda have that New England Patriot mindset where you don’t want to lose two in a row,” said Clifford. “I mean, we were coming off a two-game loss. That’s big for us. So we definitely wanted to do better here.”
This game didn’t solely belong to Clifford, who recorded the first multi-goal game of his career. In all, there were 12 Kings players with at least one point. Scoring the other Kings goals were Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King, who has two goals in his last two games.
Goalie Jonathan Bernier, who came in relief of Jonathan Quick on Thursday in the Kings’ loss at San Jose, got his sixth victory of the season and stopped a penalty shot at an especially pivotal time.
San Jose had the chance to get right back in it, trailing, 2-1, when Tommy Wingels was awarded a penalty shot at 7:58 in an eventful second period but was stopped by Bernier, who made a glove save.
The penalty-shot opportunity came after Wingels’ clear scoring attempt had been thwarted by forward Tyler Toffoli, who was making his NHL debut. Toffoli slashed at him and broke Wingels’ stick blade.
Bernier has faced two penalty shots in his career and has stopped both.
“If a goal went the other way, it could be a different period,” said Kings forward Trevor Lewis, who had two assists. “But we bounced back. Stayed strong and kept going to the net.”
Toffoli used the word “incredible,” to describe his debut.
“My first shift, I just wanted to go out there and get pucks on net and keep it simple,” he said. “After that, things just went pretty smoothly. It was a blast....I didn’t want to relax at all. I just wanted to keep going and play the best game of my life – knowing it was going to be the only first game in the NHL I’m ever going to play, so … it was a lot of fun, and I think I played well and hopefully, there’ll be more to come.”
He was asked about the play on Wingels.
“They just said it was a good backcheck,” Toffoli said. “They got a penalty shot. It’s a good thing Bernie saved it. It was just a good backcheck. After that, things went a little more smoothly. I played a little more simply.”
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, of the play: "[Toffoli] is a goal-scorer, but he obviously knows the game because his a very good penalty-killer ... He’s supposed to do that. Did I like that? You’re supposed to do that. You’re so supposed to back-check. If you don’t back-check ... or you don’t play at all. Or you play overage (junior) in the Ontario League.”
Sutter put Toffoli in the lineup and took out Jordan Nolan.
“Jordan Nolan is struggling a lot,” Sutter said. “Playing only four, five minutes a game, so you put a kid in that is 20 years old in your lineup you better keep Dustin [Penner] in the lineup.”