Kings winger Dustin Penner beats Hurricanes defenseman Jaroslav Spacek… (Gerry Broome / Associated…)
One successful finish off a two-on-one does not erase about a year of star-crossed misery.
At least, for the Kings' Dustin Penner, it represented a start.
Penner's goal in the third period against Nashville on Saturday put the Kings ahead for good and ignited a three-goal outburst from them en route to a 4-2 win over the Predators at Staples Center.
They have won four straight games and the surge keeps them in the midst of the packed Western Conference race, a battle seemingly changing by the hour.
Secondary scoring will be a must during the final three weeks of the season, and the third-period effort against the Predators was a virtual blueprint, coming from left wingers Penner, Dwight King and Kyle Clifford.
They have a combined 15 goals this season, and Penner, with six, has the most of the three players. This was his first goal since Feb. 7.
"It's something I want to become better at as far in the third period, in the clutch," Penner said Saturday night. "I think everybody at some point in their career was that guy — whether it was at a younger age or at this level. We all have the ability to be that person that scores the timely goal, like you saw with Cliffy or Kinger. That's huge for a team that can have contributions like that."
His goal-scoring challenges since arriving from Edmonton at last year's trade deadline have been well-chronicled. He was a healthy scratch in five of six games in one stretch in February.
There were tough words from Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, several injuries and personal issues away from the rink. But Penner never made any excuses for his woes and was hoping the Nashville game would serve as a catalyst.
"Hopefully, it's going to affect me more at a subconscious level," said Penner, who had an assist in the first period against the Predators. "It's not for a lack of trying, or will, or want to, that I haven't been scoring, [it's] some things outside of the dressing room….
"I've learned a lot. [Sutter] has really helped with the tough year it's been for me, both on and off the ice. The whole team and organization has been great."
By the numbers
Kings' backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, who faced 21 shots in the Nashville game, is 4-4-1 in his last nine starts. Beyond that, and much more telling, he has a 1.79 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in that stretch.
His two starts were March 8 at Columbus, a loss, and Feb. 28 at Minnesota, a shutout victory.
"It's not easy obviously, but that's my job," said Bernier of the time lag between starts.