LOS ANGELES (AP)—Ryan Smyth found a simple solution to his offensive drought. He went to the net and got the desired results.
Playing on a line with center Paul Stastny and right wing Milan Hejduk, Smyth broke open a tie game with a pair of third-period goals and led the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
“I got my opportunities and took full advantage of it,” said Smyth, who had only one goal in 13 games. “I’ve been talking about trying to get to the net a little bit more, and it was just a matter of going out and doing it.”
T.J. Hensick scored his first NHL goal in his second game. Stastny and Jaroslav Hlinka also scored and Jose Theodore made 17 saves for the Avalanche, who came in with the worst road record in the Western Conference and outshot the Kings 34-19.
Raitis Ivanans and Anze Kopitar scored first-period goals for Los Angeles. The Kings haven’t had more than three goals in their last nine games after coming back from four down in the third period against Dallas to win 6-5 in overtime on Nov. 10.
“We had a great first period and it looked like we were going to have a great game, and then the wheels completely fell off. I wish I had an explanation as to why,” said Kings coach Marc Crawford, who guided the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Colorado captain Joe Sakic didn’t play because of a sore groin, ending his streak at 232 games. Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville had no idea how long the 19-year veteran would be sidelined.
“It’s tough to say,” Quenneville said. “I don’t even want to speculate if Monday’s an option right now. Joe knows his body pretty well, but we want him to wait as long as it takes until he’s back 100 percent. It’s nothing we want to fool around with for an extended period of time.”
Kings center Michael Cammalleri was back in the lineup after sitting out Wednesday’s shootout win at San Jose due to a pulled groin. Defenseman Jaroslav Modry also returned after missing a game to be with his ailing father in the Czech Republic.
But goalie Jason LaBarbera sustained a rib injury during a goal-mouth scramble and was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Aubin with 14:40 remaining after stopping 26 of 29 shots. Left wing Alexander Frolov missed his fourth straight game because of a groin injury.
Colorado took a 3-2 lead just 19 seconds into the third period on Smyth’s first of the game. Kings rookie defenseman Jack Johnson failed to put a body on Smyth after he got the puck behind the net from Hejduk, and in a flash, the puck was in the net after Smyth’s intended centering pass for Stastny banked in off a Kings player.
Smyth added his eighth goal with 8:35 remaining, beating Aubin from short range moments after losing his helmet. Hlinka made it 4-2, converting a rebound with 5:37 left.
“It was a great effort across the board,” Quenneville said. “It was a pleasure to see us battle the way we did. The energy level that we had was as good as we’ve seen all year long, and we showed a relentless pursuit of the puck. The line of Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth and Hedjie led the whole charge, but we were getting contributions from everyone.”
After the Kings took a 2-0 lead, Stastny got Colorado back in the game just 55 seconds before the first intermission. He flipped a bouncing puck over LaBarbera’s glove for his 10th goal after Smyth outworked Modry behind the net.
“Obviously, we got behind the 8-ball. Spotting teams the lead and finding a way back into the hockey game is not something we want to do,” Smyth said. “But we found a way tonight and fought our way through a little adversity with guys like Joe, Andrew Burnett and Kurt Sauer out.”
Hensick tied it at 11:12 of the second period while referee Dan O’Rourke had his hand raised to call a delayed penalty against the Kings. He got a lead pass from Tyler Arnason as he approached the Kings’ blue line and left Modry behind before beating LaBarbera with a short wrist shot.
“To get my first goal on a breakaway is pretty special,” Hensick said. “The equipment guy got the puck for me, so I’m sure that will go on the mantle somewhere. Getting an opportunity to play in the NHL is something you work for your entire life. I know I had family and friends back home watching, and my parents were able to make the trip last night to San Jose, so it’s been a pretty exciting two days.”
Hensick, who turns 22 on Dec. 10, was a third-round draft pick by the Avalanche in 2005 after playing four seasons for Michigan. … The Avalanche need two more wins for 1,000 as a franchise. … Colorado has connected on only two of 37 power-play opportunities in eight games, and own the worst percentage on the road (4-for-57).