It's been a while since the Los Angeles Kings had to hold on for a victory in the third period. What with the sudden, unexplained bouts of goal-scoring (and occasionally goal-allowing), not one game in March had been in doubt in the final minutes. Well, they went old school tonight, as Dustin Brown's empty-net goal (his second of the night) finally assured the Kings of a 3-1 victory and a season sweep over the Calgary Flames.
At first, it seemed like the second Calgary-Los Angeles game in three days would be a lot like the first. On Saturday, the Kings picked up an early power play, and Slava Voynov made a slick pass to Dustin Brown, who passed on to Jeff Carter for the game's opening goal. Tonight, Mark Giordano took an early hooking penalty as he obstructed Dustin Penner, and the suddenly effective power play (7-24 in the last eight games) made it look easy for the second straight night. In fact, it was almost a carbon copy of Saturday's opener, as Voynov again made the perfect pass to Brown by the left post. But Joey MacDonald wasn't as quick to guard the post as Miikka Kiprusoff was last game, and the captain was more than happy to take this goal for himself.
Four minutes after Brown's tap-in made it 1-0, the Kings strengthened their advantage. Jake Muzzin got a secondary assist on the first goal, but he made it all happen on the second goal. After blocking a Calgary clearing attempt at the blue line, Muzzin dodged Roman Cervenka and got the puck past Mike Cammalleri to Jarret Stoll, who found himself with plenty of space. Stoll showed that he is still more than capable of picking the corner, and his pinpoint shot knocked the water bottle off the top of the net. A clearly impressed Stoll pointed at the young defenseman and mouthed "What a play!"
The scoring action then ceased for a good 45 minutes. The Flames struck out on a power play late in the first and another early in the second, while Dustin Penner struck out when faced with an open net after Jeff Carter found Mike Richards, and Richards drew Joey MacDonald way out of his net. LA did a good job of containing the Flames in an otherwise uneventful second period, but it was clear that it wasn't going to be another 6-2 game. The Kings then passed the buck to Jonathan Quick in the third period. Early penalties immediately put the Kings on a penalty kill and eventually a 5-on-3, but Quick was game. The Flames came closest when Matt Stajan put a one-timer off the mask of Quick.
Another ten minutes of pressing by the Flames followed. The Kings were on their heels, and the counter-attack which has been so effective in the last few games was missing tonight. With five minutes left, Mikael Backlund broke Quick's shutout bid and put the final outcome in some doubt. Alex Tanguay fed Backlund as he crossed the blue line, and he beat Alec Martinez one-on-one before making a move and beating Quick. The Flames couldn't pull the trick a second time, though, and after about 15 seconds of offensive-zone time with no net (featuring a Doughty shot which was blocked), Dustin Brown hit the empty net to clinch the win.
The Kings were out of the playoffs when they entered the first of three multi-game homestands on February 23. They went 3-0 in the first, and they have now completed that second homestand with a 4-1 record. After a quick run through Phoenix (tomorrow) and San Jose (Thursday), the Kings will come back home and look to continue their dominance. No more games with Calgary this season, but divisional matchups with the Flames could be just one realignment away.