Nathan MacKinnon scored the tiebreaking goal with 9:25 to play, and the Avalanche rallied from a third-period deficit for their fifth win in six games, 4-3 over the Kings on Wednesday night.
Gabriel Landeskog scored two goals for the Avalanche, tying it on a 4-on-3 power play with 12:22 to play. Matt Duchene also scored in a particularly satisfying win for the Avalanche, who rebounded swiftly from a 6-1 thrashing in San Jose.
“It’s a great affirmation for us, because we’ve been playing great hockey for a while now,” said Duchene, whose second-period goal was his team-leading 23rd. “That’s a great one for our confidence. To come back against a team like that, that’s one that makes you closer as a group. Everybody contributed. We’ve always said that’s the toughest team in the league to beat. You have to play a special game to beat them at home.”
The Avalanche reached the All-Star break in fourth place in the Central Division thanks to outstanding special-teams play in the third period at Staples Center.
Landeskog banged home Tyson Barrie‘s pass to tie it after the Kings got within 1 second of killing off a 4-on-3 disadvantage. MacKinnon then scored moments after another power play ended.
“This was an emotional one, especially coming off a tough loss,” Landeskog said. “Going into a break like this, the last game you play is always on your mind, so it’s a good memory to take in.”
Colorado survived 30 seconds of 6-on-4 play to end it, thanks to Calvin Pickard, who stopped 35 shots for Colorado. The backup earned praise from coach Patrick Roy in the absence of Semyon Varlamov, who missed this two-game road trip to stay in Denver for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit from his former girlfriend stemming from a 2013 altercation.
Drew Doughty and Trevor Lewis scored in the first period for the Kings, who blew an early two-goal lead and a late 3-2 advantage. Jonathan Quick made 15 saves in their third defeat in four games heading into the All-Star break.
Dwight King had a goal and an assist for the Kings, whose Pacific Division lead has dwindled to seven points.
“We certainly aren’t in a position we want to be,” Kopitar said. “I think the last five or six games, we’re definitely not at our best, so we’ve got to make sure when we come back on Tuesday we’re as sharp as we were before and get it going again. We realize that this isn’t the way we’ve got to play. The ground that we gained on some teams is going away quick.”
Doughty put the Kings ahead in the first period with a short-handed goal on a spectacular end-to-end play, securing the fifth 10-goal season of the Norris Trophy finalist’s eight-year NHL career.
Lewis then tipped in a puck from Vincent Lecavalier, who set up the goal with a nifty bit of stickhandling. Lecavalier’s assist was his sixth point in the revitalized centre’s 10 games with the Kings.
“When you have two leads in the game, you should be able to close it out,” King said. “But we let it slip tonight, and that’s something that we can think about for the next four days.”
NOTES: Alex Tanguay was a healthy scratch for the Avalanche, missing his first game since Dec. 1. The 36-year-old forward has one goal in 30 games since October. “Just wanted to give him a rest,” Roy said. … Quick made one of the year’s best saves in the third period, using the paddle of his stick to volley away a looping shot from Jarome Iginla. … The 26-year-old Doughty already ranks third on the Kings’ franchise list for goals by defencemen. Hall of Famer Rob Blake scored 161, and Steve Duchesne had 99.