From Toronto — The Kings enjoyed a profitable night on several fronts Tuesday.
Their most obvious gain was a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs that solidified their hold on a playoff spot and would have lifted them into fifth place in the West if the Phoenix Coyotes hadn't rallied to defeat the Red Wings. The Kings are four points clear of No. 8 Detroit and five ahead of No. 9 Calgary, a huge gap in a tight race.
They also regained the presence of a formidable power forward when Dustin Brown, who has struggled offensively and too rarely displayed the assertive game that makes him so effective, set up all three goals the Kings got past Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson during the second period.
"He played fantastic for us," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "That's why he's our captain. When he leads by example like that we all follow him.
"When he picked up his game and was making those plays and working hard and making hits, we kind of followed his lead and we all picked up our games and that's why we won."
Doughty had a lot to do with it too.
He ended the Kings' 0-for-27 power-play drought when he slapped home a pass from Jarret Stoll at 11:27 of the first period, a goal he celebrated with a vigorous fist pump. Clearly, he was happy to contribute in a vital game played in his native province in front of friends and family in the stands at the Air Canada Centre.
He also knew the goal, his 10th of the season, had triggered a $212,500 bonus clause in his contract.
"I'm keeping it quiet," he said, smiling.
Sorry, but nothing the Kings do is a secret anymore.
Not when they've won the first two games of this five-game trip, three in a row and five of their last six. Not after Brown picked up three inspirational points, matching a single-game best he had reached five times before.
This being Canada and Doughty being chosen for the Canadian team at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, he was surrounded by reporters after the game. He surely deserved the attention because of his goal and his unselfish play in passing to Alexander Frolov for the empty-net goal that clinched the victory with 9.5 seconds to play.
On the other side of the room Brown was nearly by himself. He didn't mind.
"I go under the radar," he said as he untied his skates.
That was part of his problem. He was too quiet too often this season, unable to consistently put the banging part of his game together with the scoring part. On Tuesday they blended into an effective and coherent whole, and it made a huge difference for the Kings.
"Maybe his stats haven't been there," defenseman Rob Scuderi said, "but you expect your captain to play game in and game out and he's done that for us."
The Maple Leafs had matched Doughty's goal at 15:06 of the first, benefiting when Nikolai Kulemin's shot from the left side glanced off Peter Harrold's stick and past Jonathan Quick. The Kings surged ahead again at 1:54 of the second period thanks to Brown. He controlled the puck in the corner, went behind the Maple Leafs' net and fooled the defense into thinking he would throw the puck in front. Instead, he passed the puck out to Jack Johnson, whose 50-foot slap shot overpowered Gustavsson.
Toronto made it 2-2 at 8:19 on a 30-foot wrist shot by Niklas Hagman, but Brown wouldn't let the Kings lose. He stole the puck from a passive Wayne Primeau along the left-wing boards and put it in front for Stoll to snap it home at 12:37, and he was tireless in the offensive zone in getting the puck to linemate Ryan Smyth for a 40-foot wrist shot at 16:12.
The Maple Leafs cut the Kings' lead to 4-3 at 18:42 of the third period on a wrist shot by Hagman after Gustavsson had been replaced by an extra skater, but Brown and the Kings would not be denied.
"It was one of those times where these two points are bigger than any other two points we've had the rest of the year," Brown said. "I just got in on the forecheck a couple times and turned over a couple pucks, and when you do that, good things happen."
Even before he had peeled off his sweaty gear, Brown said he and his teammates were thinking ahead to their next game, Thursday at Columbus. "The two most important points are in front of us," he said, eager for another profitable night in a season of increasing riches.