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Kings defeat Oilers, 3-2, retake top spot in West

Sean O'Donnell's goal in the third period is the difference at Edmonton.

December 16, 2009|Helene Elliott
  • Raitis Ivanans, left, fights with the Oilers' Jean-Francois Jacques during the second period the Kings' 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
Raitis Ivanans, left, fights with the Oilers' Jean-Francois Jacques… (John Ulan / Associated Press )

Reporting from Edmonton, Canada — The more bodies the Kings lose, the more strength they seem to gain.

Playing with a jumbled lineup that took a huge hit when defenseman Jack Johnson was overcome by pain after blocking a Sheldon Souray slap shot with his foot, the Kings banded together to win a game they might have lost a season ago and recapture the top spot in the West.

Sean O'Donnell's low shot from the point at 15:27 of the third period, set up by the puck control of Alexander Frolov and Justin Williams and aided by Williams' screen of goalie Jeff Deslauriers, was the difference Tuesday in their 3-2 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers, who had won their previous five games.

The Kings began the game at Rexall Place without Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds and Jarret Stoll and with a newly formed second line of Brad Richardson, Michal Handzus and Dustin Brown. That trio produced the Kings' first two goals. Johnson was hurt in the first period and tried four shifts in the second before taking himself out; initial tests were unclear and he will be reevaluated today in Calgary.

When he went down, Davis Drewiske, moved to the wing to start the game, moved back to defense and played solidly.

"We've got some guys coming in and playing some big minutes that maybe aren't there normally," Brown said. "We've got everyone pitching in and our system play was really good."

With a 22-11-3 record and 47 points, the Kings moved two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks, who have two games in hand. The Kings, who didn't get their 47th point last season until their 47th game, rank third in the NHL behind Washington (48) and Pittsburgh (47 points on 23 wins).

They're where they are because of clutch plays and clutch players like O'Donnell, who hadn't scored a goal in 157 games since Dec. 22, 2007.

"He almost caught my record there for non-scoring goals," said Coach Terry Murray, who guessed his worst drought was 200 games.

O'Donnell's goal was only one of many differences in a team that has showed remarkable resilience.

Without the injured Smyth and with Anze Kopitar flailing, they've had to find scoring from unlikely sources. Simmonds had filled that void and others will have to step up while he recovers from knee surgery.

So far, they have. And goalie Jonathan Quick, who made 27 saves and got help from the post on a Souray shot early in the third period, sustained his recent exceptional play.

"At the start of the year I think we were winning games because Kopi was carrying us. Smitty was carrying us," O'Donnell said. "We were getting great efforts from a couple of guys. Now it seems like we're learning to win games.

"That was a big game for us. We played [Monday] night in Vancouver. We had a tough loss. We came in and we knew they were playing well. We did just enough to win.

"You might say we're fortunate but you might say we're learning to win those games now. I think it's a real kind of shot in the arm that we've been doing a good job in these kinds of game this year."

Richardson scored the lone goal of the first period. The Oilers had the puck at the Kings' blue line and Steve Staios passed across to fellow defenseman Denis Grebeshkov. The puck went behind Grebeshkov, allowing Brown to pounce on it. Skating up the right side, he slid a pass to Richardson, whose wrist shot beat Deslauriers at 5:29.

The Richardson-Handzus-Brown line struck again at 3:44 of the second period to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.

Handzus made a crisp pass up ice to Richardson, who dodged former King Lubomir Visnovsky and took a shot that Deslauriers went to his right to stop. The goalie left a juicy rebound on the right side, which Brown swatted into the open side of the net as he fell.

The Kings did falter briefly in the second period. They killed off an instigator penalty assessed on Raitis Ivanans, who avenged Jean-Francois Jacques' mashing defenseman Drew Doughty into the boards, but got scrambly in their own zone. That cost them when an icing call brought the faceoff to Quick's right and Ryan Potulny beat Corey Elkins on the draw. Potulny got the puck back to Souray, whose slap shot threaded its way through a maze of bodies at 12:17.

The Oilers pulled even at 3:43 of the third, on a nice passing play between Potulny and Souray. But the undermanned Kings found the physical and emotional strength to make up for what they lacked in numbers.

"I think we played a pretty good game," Brown said, proving the Kings are as masterful at understatement as they've been at responding to adversity.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter.com/helenenothelen

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