Shootout win ends Kings' slump

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- How does a team end a winless streak?
It plays host to the worst team in the NHL and lets nature take its course.
How does a team snap out of a funk?
That might take a little longer.
The struggling Los Angeles Kings, losers of two straight and not exactly keen on making it three to match a season-long skid, hosted the hapless Colorado Avalanche on Thursday at Staples Center in hopes of ending their late-season siesta.
And Los Angeles did so, in a matter of speaking, with a 3-2 victory decided by a shootout.
However, it wasn't nearly the kind of clean effort the Kings were looking for after dropping two straight.
After getting first-period goals from two streaking scorers to take control, they gave it right back by surrendering goals in the second and third periods.
Only a dominating shootout in which Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar all scored against Colorado goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere enabled the Kings to prevail. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped one of the two shots he faced in the shootout.
"It wasn't easy on us, but we got the two points, and that's all that matters," Kings center Mike Richards said.
In the process, Los Angeles (23-14-4) vaulted back into fourth place in the Western Conference playoff standings, one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks and two ahead of the St. Louis Blues.
As far as getting back on track, that remains to be seem. Yes, the Kings won, but after a scintillating start, they fell back into some bad habits.
"We got away from it, they started pressing a little bit," Carter said. "But good or bad, it's a big two points for us."
Said Kopitar: "The first (period) was good, we came out strong, outshot them in the first by quite a bit and sat back a little bit, which it's not the best thing to do obviously, and they came back. But at the end of the day, we got the two points, and that's the most important thing for us."
For the Avalanche (13-22-6), it was just more of the same in a lost season.
One the bright side, Colorado got a fairly nice NHL debut from 20-year-old goalie Sami Aittokallio, who shook off a shaky start to play effectively the rest of the way until leaving with 10:36 left in the third period when he got tangled up in the net and landed awkwardly.
The Kings initiated Aittokallio by blistering him with the two early goals, the first by Carter on a power play at 5:27 on an assist by Richards, the second when Richards beat Aittokallio on assists by Jake Muzzin and Dustin Penner.
"You start trying to get as many shots as you can, but at the same time, a lot of times that's the best game they play, too, right?" Kings coach Daryl Sutter said. "He played good. He had some really good saves."
Carter scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season and his sixth over his past eight games.
Richards now has a point in five straight games.
Ahead 2-0 early, it looked like an easy night for Los Angeles, but Aittokallio settled down, the Kings got lax, and a window opened for the Avalanche to crawl back in.
Paul Stastny cut the lead to 2-1 with a late goal in the second period, and Patrick Bordeleau scored the equalizer five minutes into the third.
"It was 2-0, it could have been worse, we weathered that storm," Stastny said. "We knew if we could get one before the third, we could have a chance, (and) we did. We battled and got another to tie. And then it's anyone's game in OT and shootout."
Aittokallio came out after his left leg twisted awkwardly as he backed into position. He skate got tangled up with a teammate's skate. He finished with 23 saves on 25 shots.
After the game his injury was described as a cramps in both legs.
Giguere was called on from the bench to relieve Aittokallio, and the Kings went to work on him in the shootout.
The end result was a loss, but the Avalanche like the way they responded, both Thursday and in a 4-1 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday.
"There's been lots of positives the last two games. We needed a bit of a push-back from the guys," said Giguere, stopped all 12 shots he saw in regulation and overtime. "I think we did that the last couple of nights."
Quick finished with 26 saves.
NOTES: It's been a tough season for the Avalanche, but at least they're getting a little healthier. Stastny returned to the lineup Wednesday and forward Milan Hejduk in nearing an imminent return. Stastny had been out since hurting his foot while blocking a shot against Vancouver, costing the Avalanche their third-best scorer for eight games. ... Hejduk has been out since hurting his shoulder March 30, and the Avalanche lost five straight games at one point without him. He was hopeful of returning against the Kings, but was ultimately scratched. ... The Kings are hoping to get defenseman Matt Greene back in time for the playoffs. The veteran Greene has appeared in just one game this year -- the season opener -- after undergoing back surgery in January. Greene participated in a light workout during the Kings morning skate Thursday and he is working toward a late April return. ... The Kings lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday and 5-1 against the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday. They haven't dropped three straight since going 0-2-1 to open the season.

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