PITTSBURGH (TICKER) —After coming close in Detroit, the Los Angeles Kings finished the job in Pittsburgh.
In Monday’s 5-4 loss at Detroit, Los Angeles nearly erased a three-goal deficit. In this one, the Kings faced a less daunting 2-0 deficit in the first 16 minutes.
“We are battling for every point we can get right now,” said Murray, whose team trails Edmonton by five points for the final Western Conference playoff. “There isn’t anything else other than big wins for us right now. We felt that Jamie wasn’t sharp on the first goals. Cristobal got his first NHL win tonight. Jamie will get the job done for us in Columbus.”
“Last night was tough,” Smolinski added. “We played a rough game against Detroit. We get two points that now everybody has to get. With Pittsburgh, anytime with Mario on the ice, you know anything can happen.”
Los Angeles got within a goal before the first intermission on defenseman Jaroslav Modry’s power-play tally, then scored three more times to take the lead.
Palffy got two goals in a 3:44 span of the second period, putting the Kings ahead for good by beating Johan Hedberg on a breakaway.
Smolinski finished the outburst at 3:42 of the third and Palffy assisted on the former Penguins’ second of the game just over seven minutes later.
Lemieux kept Pittsburgh in it with a breakaway goal with 9:11 remaining. But Smolinski capped his second two-goal effort in three games just 34 seconds later.
Palffy totaled four points, giving him 22 in the last 13 games. On his first goal, he made a nice play at both ends, blocking defenseman Dick Tarnstrom’s shot and getting a pass from Alexander Frolov before putting a backhander past Hedberg.
Palffy’s second goal was created by Derek Armstrong’s effort along the boards. Armstrong kept the puck in the zone and left it for Palffy, whose wrister appeared to go off the skate of defenseman Hans Jonsson.
Lemieux also picked up an assist but fell into a tie with Vancouver’s Markus Naslund for the NHL scoring lead with 83 points. The Penguins lost three of their last four to conclude a 2-3-0 homestand.
Modry started the comeback during a two-man advantage, 29 seconds after Shean Donovan was penalized for cross-checking and 96 seconds after the Penguins were assessed a delay-of-game penalty.
With Palffy working down low, Modry got a pass and put a shot under the crossbar for his 10th goal.
“Everybody has to realize we don’t have many games left,” Palffy said. “We now have to look at the games ahead. Tonight we started slow, we gave up two bad goals. We stayed playing our system. The first power-play goal got us back in it, Cristobal stepped up and got key saves for us in the third period.”
Before the rally, Storr was beaten by Martin Straka at 5:02 and again when Lemieux snapped a sharp-angle shot from the right side off his glove 10 minutes later.
“We had a good start,” Penguins coach Rick Kehoe said. “But we took a bad penalty on the delay of the game. The guys should know better. What happened was we ended up getting another penalty. It’s 5-on-3 and they’re back in the game. Penalties hurt us tonight.”
Huet made 16 saves for his first NHL win. He was beaten 1-on-1 by Lemieux, but Smolinski victimized his former team on the next shift.
“We stopped working, moving the puck,” Lemieux said. “We didn’t play a very good second period. Played better in the third and by then, it was too late. You’re not going to play every night like we’ve been playing. This makes it tougher as we head down the stretch.”