“Mikko Eloranta and I were talking about that before the game, how funny it was that I had no goals at home since opening night,” Laperriere said Wednesday night after his tying goal triggered a three-goal third period in a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. “Usually, I get all of my goals at home.”
Eric Belanger had two goals and an assist and Ziggy Palffy had a goal and two assists. Derek Armstrong added a goal and an assist for the Kings, who finished 19-20-2 at Staples Center after going 22-13-6 last year.
The 20 home losses matched the second-highest total by the franchise since losing a club-record 27 games at the Forum in 1985-86 under coach Pat Quinn. Despite their dismal injury-plagued season, the Kings had 25 sellouts at Staples Center and finished with a club-record home attendance of 720,186—an average of 17,566.
“We’ve always had great fans,” Laperriere said. “The crowds weren’t like this seven years ago, but when Staples Center opened, everybody came. And with the season we’ve had, this just tells you how great our fans are. They just stick with us and they believe in us. They knew what we were going through with all those injuries, and they deserved a win like this, just because they supported us all year.”
Colorado’s Milan Hejduk scored his 47th goal and 21st in 28 games, and Martin Skoula and Steve Reinprecht also scored for the Avalanche, who are 30-15-4 since Tony Granato replaced Bob Hartley as coach on Dec. 19.
The win was just the third for the Kings when they went into the third period trailing. Laperriere tipped in a wrist shot from the left point by rookie Joe Corvo at with 18:28 remaining for the tying goal, while former teammate Rob Blake was off for interference.
Palffy got the winning goal with 13:50 left, walking right in on Patrick Roy and beating him from the right of the crease for his 36th goal. It was only the second time in 13 starts Roy allowed more than two goals.
“There are no excuses. We were ahead 3-2 and had the game right where we wanted it, but they were working really hard,” Roy said. “It’s more frustrating than anything else.”
The Avalanche, who eliminated the Kings from the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, won’t get a chance to do it this time. Los Angeles was mathematically eliminated from postseason contention on March 25.
“We really had nothing to save it for,” Miller said. “They’re looking toward the playoffs, so we wanted to maybe stop them from getting a spot higher in the standings—or do something negative, because they ended our season two years in a row.”
Ironically, Colorado may need the Kings’ help to beat out Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division and win an NHL-record ninth straight division title. Los Angeles plays at Vancouver in Sunday’s regular-season finale, while the Avalanche host St. Louis. The Avalanche and Canucks are separated by three points.
Colorado still has a three-point lead on the Blues for fourth place in the Western Conference standings and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Avalanche are 13-1-2 in their last 16 home games, with the losscoming in overtime.
Granato is trying to become only the fourth coach to win a Stanley Cup with a team he took over during the season. Dick Irvin replaced Art Duncan at Toronto in 1931-32, Al MacNeil replaced Claude Ruel at Montreal in 1970-71, and Larry Robinson replaced Robbie Ftorek at New Jersey three seasons ago. … With just two games remaining, no Kings player other than Palffy has more than 15 goals. It’s only the second time in club history—other than the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season—that the Kings will have only one player with 20 or more goals. It also happened in 1998-99, when Luc Robitaille had 39 and Donald Audette was next with 18. … The only time the Kings drew 100 percent capacity for an entire home season was 1991-92 at the 16,005-seat Forumin Wayne Gretzky’s fourth season with the Kings.