Let's pause for a moment of appreciation for Rogie Vachon and Toe Blake.
And Marian Gaborik.
First, the present-day man of the moment: Gaborik. The recently acquired Gaborik set up the first goal and later scored the decisive goal in a three-round shootout, leading the Kings to a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Staples Center.
The victory was the Kings' first in four games, stopping a three-game losing streak. It was especially key in that it maintained their five-point division lead over the fourth-place Coyotes, who had won earlier at home against Florida.
“We just grind it out,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who scored in the first period. “We had a one-goal lead going into the third again and we weren't able to hold on right off the get-go but we showed a lot of character in the OT, killing off that penalty and eventually got it done in the shootout.”
Dustin Brown said the key to the victory was the team's penalty-killing.
“Obviously, killing off a power play in overtime against the top [power play] in the league was a huge momentum swing for us,” he said. “I think sticking with it — we played a playoff-type style, a hard-grinding game and we're built for that type of game and I thought we stuck with it.”
Goals by Jeff Carter and Gaborik in the shootout helped keep Milestone Night intact for the Kings. The twin career achievements were for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and Coach Darryl Sutter.
Quick faced 22 shots in recording his 171st victory with the Kings, moving into a tie with Vachon for the franchise record. Vachon played his final game for the Kings in the 1977-78 season.
Quick, for his part, noted the impact of the shootout on his career win totals.
"Obviously, if it was not for the shootout, I would be another season behind, (Vachon) did not have the luxury of having the shootout. So in my mind, I’m still chasing him.”
Then there was the Sutter milestone.
Toe Blake, of course, goes back a bit more in time. This was Sutter's 500th regular-season victory, tying Blake for 17th overall in NHL history. Blake retired after the 1967-68 season, having coached Montreal to eight Stanley Cups.
Sutter said the milestone meant "a lot" to him.
"I've been around a long time," he said, noting that it was kind of "odd" the 500th win came in the shootout.
It had looked like the milestones would have to wait for the Kings until at least Saturday afternoon against Florida.
The Capitals got exactly what they needed in overtime — another power-play opportunity when Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr went off for hooking — but the NHL's top power-play unit was unable to take advantage of the four-on-three despite several high-quality chances, most notably Troy Brouwer's point-blank attempt with 3:01 remaining
There were shades of Monday's struggle, when the Kings took a 3-2 lead over the Coyotes into the third period but Phoenix left Los Angeles with a 4-3 win and new life in the Pacific Division.
Again, the Kings were sitting on a one-goal lead when it got away from them. They were up 1-0 heading into the third but the Capitals seemed to pick up momentum late in the second period.
On the game-tying goal, Capitals rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov put on a nifty display of stickhandling, appearing like he was going to go behind the net. Instead he found Joel Ward out in front, and Ward beat Quick up high over the shoulder on his second effort.
Until the third period, the only scoring in the game came from the chemistry created between linemates Gaborik and Kopitar. Gaborik, who has four points in his last four games, used his speed and found Kopitar going hard to the net.
Kopitar beat Washington goalie Jaroslav Halak short side for his 22nd goal of the season.
Brown, who had missed the last two games because of a lower-body injury, returned to action and Jordan Nolan was scratched.
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