Kings winger Kyle Clifford celebrates after scoring against Ottawa in… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
Four words almost always bring forth a smile and a knowing nod.
Gordie Howe hat trick.
That would be a goal, an assist and a fight in one game, and Kings left wing Kyle Clifford pulled off the feat in a 4-1 victory Monday against Ottawa at Staples Center, not even needing two full periods to do so.
Maybe somewhere, someplace, the great man himself was kicking back with his remote control, watching and smiling. Then again, Howe mostly lives with his kids in the Eastern time zone, so it would be a little late for him to be watching the Kings and Senators.
This was the order of Clifford's Howe hat trick: Fight, assist and goal.
And above all, it helped Clifford win a bet with teammate Kevin Westgarth.
Westgarth happened to get back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last seven games and played on the fourth line with Clifford and center Colin Fraser.
"First career," Clifford reported of the Howe feat. "That was the first.
"Me and Westie had a bet on it. Who got it first gets a nice porterhouse at the restaurant of our choice. So it's definitely a good feeling."
The burning question: Just how big will the steak be?
"I once did a 52-ounce, so we'll see if we can top that one," Clifford said. "We've been having the bet going since we met each other. It's almost a sigh of relief because it's been two years. Let's get the monkey off our back and now we're just going to keep moving forward."
Clifford started things off with the fight in the first period against Senators enforcer Zenon Konopka, who had 307 penalty minutes when he played for the New York Islanders last season. He once co-owned an establishment called Stout Bros.
Obviously an individual not to be taken lightly, though Clifford said they fought last season.
The Kings' fourth line — which helped figure in the first two goals — was a slight variation. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter pulled Trent Hunter out of the lineup and inserted Westgarth. He brought a jolt of energy with him and seemed to infuse Clifford too.
"We all kind of play the same way," Clifford said. "We're real simple and we just get pucks in deep and get some hits going and that gets energy for our team and creates energy for ourselves too."
Clifford's goal, his third of the season, made it 2-0 at 11 minutes 8 seconds of the second period when he managed to convert his own rebound after a scramble. Earlier, Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell scored on a wrist shot from the left point to make it 1-0 in the first period.
After Clifford's goal, the Kings scored two more times before the end of the second, converting a five-on-three advantage and a penalty shot. Defenseman Jack Johnson scored on the power play with a one-timed blast, at 17:54.
Then Trevor Lewis was awarded a penalty shot with 33 seconds left in the second when it was ruled that Senators defenseman Chris Phillips had closed his glove over the puck in the crease.
"I was upset," Phillips said of the penalty shot call that essentially sealed the victory for the Kings. "I thought I went in and swiped it, which it looks like happened. But it's frustrating when you're struggling in the game and then you get some calls against you that you got to try not to let it affect you and the team.
"It's tough. Emotions run high and sometimes get the best of you, and that was a little bit of the case tonight."
One of the captains in the upcoming All-Star game, the Senators' Daniel Alfredsson, ruined Jonathan Quick's shutout bid with a power-play goal at 8:37 of the third period. It was Alfredsson's 16th goal, and Quick stopped the Senators' first 25 shots before the star center broke through.
Alfredsson thought the difference in the game was giving the Kings too much room in the neutral zone.
"They were able to dump it in, with speed, and we made it really hard for our defense early on," he said. "In the second period, we spent most of it in the penalty box and dug ourselves a big hole."