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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings are quick enough in transition, beat Toronto in shootout

Dustin Brown's shootout goal gives L.A. a 3-2 win and a 2-2 record on four-game trip under interim Coach John Stevens. Now things get interesting, with Darryl Sutter set to take over as coach Tuesday.

December 19, 2011|Helene Elliott

From Toronto — Now comes the fun.

After ending the John Stevens era with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, the Kings on Tuesday will announce they've hired Darryl Sutter, who agreed to a multiyear deal last week but had to complete family business and immigration requirements before he could take over. Sutter, 53, will conduct practice and be introduced at a news conference Wednesday before making his Kings coaching debut Thursday against the Ducks at Staples Center.

Stevens steered the Kings to a 2-2 record during an odd transition and challenging trip during his week as Terry Murray's replacement. Under Stevens' brief watch the Kings extended their streak of scoring two goals or fewer to 12 games (shootout goals don't count in scoring totals) and absorbed an 8-2 pounding at Detroit. But their ability to rebound Monday at Air Canada Centre and leverage their goal quota into a win thanks to Dustin Brown's shootout success hinted at some measure of character and their respect for Stevens, who is expected to stay on as an assistant.

Murray was a father figure, Stevens the substitute teacher who tried to cheer everyone up and calm them down. Sutter will be something else altogether.

"I heard he's a bit of a yeller, and I think that's a good thing. We need someone that's going to push us to get the best out of us every night," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I think he's going to be a great fit for our team and I'm real excited for him to come along."

Be careful what you wish for. . . .

"From what I hear from players he's a very passionate guy," said Justin Williams, who capitalized on a carom off the stanchion behind goalie James Reimer to score the Kings' first goal, at 7:54 of the first period.

"He's very intense and I'm looking forward to a coach like that."

The Kings have fallen short of expectations with a 15-14-4 record and league-worst offense and the blunt Sutter will have to draw much better out of them. Players who work hard and care should win his approval. Those who don't . . . well, with Sutter behind the bench again there's an opening for someone to shovel manure on his family's Alberta ranch.

"We're excited for the new coach to come in and kind of see what it's like. At the same time, it's on us," Doughty said.

The responsibility of making this work is on General Manager Dean Lombardi, too. He was so sure Sutter was the right choice that he put the Kings through an awkward period of limbo. It might be genius. It might also be a blunder that cost them points and could cost them a playoff berth.

Either way, Sutter's tenure surely won't be dull.

Stevens left with a win, no small feat. After Williams gave the Kings the early lead, John-Michael Liles tied it on a slap shot from the left circle that eluded Jonathan Quick at 11:01 of the first period. The Kings appeared to get a break on their second goal when the puck seemed to slip outside the zone but wasn't ruled offside, so play continued. Brown took a perfectly timed pass from Simon Gagne to score with a man advantage at 14:58 of the second period, the team's first power-play goal in seven games.

Toronto's Matt Frattin matched that at 2:56 of the third period on a tap-in but Brown clinched the victory with the only goal in the shootout. "It's important for us to build on this," Brown said. "We're going back home and we've got to refocus and get ready to go again."

Stevens, asked what he would tell his successor, said he wasn't sure but vowed to help in any way possible.

"The one thing he can rest assured is that we have some quality people here to build around," Stevens said. "We've got a lot of good soldiers in the room there who are going to help us get out of this."

As long as they know what they're getting into.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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