Goalie Jonathan Quick makes a save, with the help of teammate Alec Martinez,… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)
Left wing Marco Sturm went from the Kings' first line to the first plane to Washington, claimed on waivers by the Capitals after General Manager Dean Lombardi gambled that Sturm would sneak through and continue the seemingly impossible mission of bringing speed and scoring to the left side of the lineup.
The Kings didn't miss Sturm on Saturday in a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Staples Center, controlling the game until Colorado rediscovered a shred of pride in the third period and scored three times, with the first goal coming on a five-on-three advantage.
Center Anze Kopitar scored a goal for the third consecutive game and became the first King to score 20 in each of his first five NHL seasons since Luc Robitaille hit 20 in his first eight seasons. Defenseman Alec Martinez scored after he was scratched for the Kings' previous two games, and Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll contributed power-play goals as the Kings extended their winning streak to three games and their surge to 11-1-3.
"We're happy with the way we played today. We dominated pretty much the whole thing. But obviously we're not happy with our lapse at the end there," said Doughty, whose 10th goal triggered a personal bonus of $212,500.
"Good teams shut teams down and we didn't do that tonight, but we can in the future."
Coach Terry Murray, who said Friday that Sturm would be on the top line if he cleared waivers, insisted that Sturm would have been scratched Saturday if he had stayed. Maybe that's true and maybe Sturm couldn't satisfy the Kings' needs, though they were unreasonable to expect he would be prolific after he had major right knee surgery in May.
But prospect Andrei Loktionov can't be the answer, either, after suffering a potentially season-ending injury to his left shoulder Friday with the Kings' farm team.
What's the solution to a problem they identified last summer, and is General Manager Dean Lombardi decisive enough to pull the trigger on an impact deal before Monday's noon PST deadline?
Lombardi has considered Edmonton's Ales Hemsky and Florida's David Booth and is said to be actively pursuing prize Dallas center Brad Richards, who is idled by a concussion. The Kings' lineup Monday against Detroit could be significantly different than it was Saturday — or Lombardi could again pull off the midlevel deals he seems to favor. He might do nothing at all.
Lombardi said Saturday in an interview on Fox Sports West that there aren't a lot of "pure sellers," and that to trade top prospect Brayden Schenn he would have to get an offer that's "really something significant … and quite frankly, I don't think he's going anywhere."
According to Murray, it's fine if nothing changes.
"I like our team. I like the way it is right now," he said. "We've got a great chemistry, and that's so important, to have that chemistry. You can put a lot of different people into the dressing room and if it doesn't work, boy, you're very frustrated as an organization. … We've got a good group of guys that play hard for each other."
Brad Richardson acquitted himself capably on the first line Saturday, setting up the Kings' first goal with a wraparound shot that left a rebound for Kopitar to swat past Brian Elliott at 7:13 of the first period, but he's not the power forward who might give them a better chance to get beyond one round of the playoffs.
Martinez again demonstrated his scoring potential when he took a pass from a battling Kyle Clifford and blasted a shot past Elliott at 9:50 of the second period. Doughty, finding his stride again, made it 3-0 during a power play late in the period with a long slap shot. Stoll scored the Kings' final goal during a four-on-three advantage off a fine cross-ice pass from Justin Williams at 5:47 of the third. Overall, the Kings took a season-high 42 shots.
But they had lapses and took bad penalties, and a puckhandling gaffe by Jonathan Quick created last-minute anxiety. Still, they won what might have been the final game for this group.
"I think Dean has to be happy with what we've got going now," defenseman Matt Greene said, "but who knows if he wants to add or subtract or what he wants to do?"
That's the question of the hour — and the hours until Monday's deadline.