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LA Kings at Calgary Flames Game 76 Recap: Kings Win Revenge Game, Stave Off Elimination

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The two stories tonight were about vengeance and desperation. Both paid off.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames
Gordie Howe hat trick for the veteran.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This was bound to be a weird game for the Los Angeles Kings and the Calgary Flames. After getting shutout the night before and bad blood left over from last week, surely things would at least be interesting.

[Box score]

The Flames are one of those insufferable teams who inexplicably get hot and still act like it’s 1982. In other words: They’re Dean Lombardi’s wet dream of a team with just enough skill to make you think they’re good and tons of grit to protect their star players.

Matthew Tkachuk, who drew the ire of the Los Angeles Kings and fans last week with a dirty elbow to the head when he came up against Drew Doughty, tried to fight Jake Muzzin early on and got an unsportsmanlike penalty 25 seconds in. It didn’t result in a goal, but the Kings had some good looks.

The season hasn’t been cruel enough so Dougie Hamilton somehow got a goal off a deflection of Alec Martinez’s skate. Hey, at least it wasn’t their first shot! There were more fights and scraps. Tkachuk finally got the fight he was looking for in willing dance partner Brayden McNabb shortly after the goal. Then, just about midway through the first period, Jarome Iginla tangoed with Deryk Engelland after Engelland cross-checked Anze Kopitar up high. Amusingly, the Calgary crowd seemed a bit conflicted in this moment. Who do they cheer for? Their enforcer or lifetime hero?

Exactly nine minutes after Hamilton’s goal, Trevor Lewis scored his 10th of the season. That’s right, American Hero Trevor Lewis has scored a career high after nine years in the NHL, playing in his 500th game and he finally notches double digits in one season. He’s gotten close over the last couple of years but now he’s finally achieved it.

Late in the first, Tyler Toffoli slashed Johnny Gaudreau. On that same power play, Mikael Backlund interfered with Lewis in the neutral zone thereby negating that advantage and giving the Kings one. The period ended, mercifully, about 45 minutes or so after it began tied at 1-1.

The second period moved along a little faster with fewer fisticuffs and fewer penalties (only seven compared to 10 in the first period and three of the infractions were slapped on Andy Andreoff all at once so really, it’s almost like there were only five incidents when the teams broke the rules). Iginla scored with under a minute to go in the second period, putting the Kings on top for the first time since... since whenever their last win was. Funny enough, it was actually Mark Giordano who accidentally swiped the puck past a sprawling Brian Elliott but Iginla was the one who got credit for it (though he didn’t have a single shot on goal in this game). Nice to have a little luck on the Kings’ side for a change.

Jeff Carter and Kopitar tacked on an additional two goals in the final frame. Iginla set up Carter beautifully for a 2-on-1 chip and with that assist, picked up a Gordie Howe hat trick. Fortunately, there were only two penalties and most of the extracurriculars died down as well. Near the end of the game, Ralph Strangis joked that both teams were all tuckered out from all the previous activity. The Kings actually looked like vintage Kings in the third period, carefully controlling the boards and the middle of the ice, snuffing out dangerous chances and taking advantage of a team that was pressing and giving more open space.

It was a weird game with Tkachuk, being 19-year-old hotshot rookie, running around all night and trying to take out Doughty and literally anyone else in white. His team had his back so of course they got involved because teams stick together, but Tkachuk kept acting like he was the one who got elbowed in the face, like he had a grudge to settle, a bell to answer, insert cliché here. The entire Kings team seemed to have the talented first-year on their collective radars as they made a point to make contact with him. Dustin Brown in particular managed to check the legacy three times in one shift. The final time was great awareness by Brown who stayed with Tkachuk and disrupted a decent scoring chance. Despite six minor penalties a piece, neither team scored on the man advantage, though they both came close a couple of times.

Technically, mathematically, the Kings are still in the race despite the St. Louis Blues winning their game against Arizona. The good news is that the Flames and Blues were denied clinching so by the rather smallest of odds, Los Angeles could make the playoffs, especially if history repeats itself. Strangis mentioned on the broadcast that in 2011-12, Glen Gulutzan was coaching the Dallas Stars and were sitting pretty in a playoff spot but lost their final five games of the season.

LA will face: Vancouver, Arizona, Edmonton, Calgary, Chicago, and Anaheim. There’s a lot of potential for the Kings to pick up some points if the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks stay hot.