LOS ANGELES - The Flames had their two-game winning streaked snuffed out Wednesday night.
Coming off back-to-back 6-2 victories over the Canucks and Sharks, the Flames offence had come to life recently, firing on all cylinders with scoring up-and-down the lineup.
However, in the third outing of this four-game Western roadie, they had a hard time generating good scoring chances and when they did, Kings goalie Cal Petersen was often there to make a big save when his team needed it.
He finished with 35 stops.
The end result: a 5-3 victory for the home team at the Staples Center.
It's been a tough year for the Kings, who came into the night sitting last in the Western Conference and second last in the NHL.
They were 1-8-1 in their last 10 outings.
However, on this night, they stepped up their game, created chances and that - combined with their netminding - was enough to win the day.
At the other end of the ice, David Rittich was no pushover, though, making his fair share of 10-bell stops.
The first period was choppy and, at times, sloppy.
Both teams had difficulity establishing zone time and setting up and cycling the puck, thanks to fobbled passes and interceptions.
However, the Kings did test Rittich on a handful of occasions, none better than Trevor Moore's short-handed breakaway, where the Kings forward barrelled in but Rittich stood tall to deny his five-hole attempt.
The Flames best crack was a one-man effort by Mikael Backlund, who hung his arm out to protect his stick and puck and drove around Kings defenceman Kurtis MacDermid for an in-tight shot on Petersen, along with two or three whacks at it in the crease before the goalie was able to cover up and the whistle went.
Milan Lucic - who came into the game with two goals and five points over the Flames dominating two-game winning streak - brought the crowd at the Staples Center to its feet 6:23 into the second period, when he squared off with the hulking MacDermid.
The two heavyweights had a quick but spirited affair with some big punches thrown and landed, that ended when MacDermid fell down and the linesman jumped in as he tried to stand back up, appearing to want to keep going
The Kings were honouring the LA Dodgers during Wednesday's game, so it was perhaps fitting that both goalies were pitching a no-hitter until nearly the halfway mark of the middle stanza.
But then the goals came fast and furious.
Mikael Backlund scored his second in as many games, taking a pass from Matthew Tkachuk and one-timing it as he dropped to one knee as he skated into the slot for his eighth of the season.
But just 44 seconds later, Tyler Toffoli would corral the rebound of an Anze Kopitar shot while standing beside the net, flipping it up and over Rittich to tie it up.
On the next possession, Austin Wagner - who was born and raised in Calgary and played his midget hockey with the Calgary Northstars Midget AAA team - was sprung on a breakaway and made no mistake, snapping a wrister far-side a scant 39 seconds later, while the in-house announcer was still calling out Toffoli's tally.
Later, Backlund had a great short-handed chance but wasn't able to beat Petersen.
The Kings came out quick in the third with an unlikely suspect - MacDermid - firing a rocket up and over Rittich's left shoulder 1:42 in for his third goal of the hear.
A beautiful tic-tac-toe play on the rush between Johnny Gaudreau, Derek Ryan and Elias Lindholm, ended with the latter all alone to the left of the Kings net for an easy shot into a wide-open cage for his team leading 23rd goal of the year at the 3:25 mark.
The Flames failed to capitilize on a 1:03 of 5-on-3 powerplay action with two Kings in the box. Tkachuk walked out front and tried one of his patented between the legs shots but Petersen made the save.
Back to 5-on-4, Dillon Dube took a close backhand pass to Dillon Dube who burst down the middle to get a backhand shot off but it, too, was stopped.
On the next faceoff, Amdrew Mangiapane was denied in a wonderful opportunity.
Desperately trying to tie the game up and pushing hard, a defensive breakdown proved costly as Jeff Carter scored with just under five minutes to play.
The Flames didn't stop coming though, pushing hard down the stretch. They got rewarded when Lindholm's fairly innocent looking backhand from a weird angle went off Petersen's leg and into the net with 3:05 left to play.
The Flames pulled Rittich with just over two minutes left, but weren't able to get the equalizer.
The Kings potted an empty-netter with 2.4 seconds left.
THEY SAID IT:
Lucic on the tough loss:
"We played well and then if you look at all four goals, it was kind of our own doing as far as turning the puck over and they're able to pounce on it and get a goal. So, other than that, played a good game. We created a lot of chances. Powerplay was so good for us the last two games but wasn;t able to get one for us here tonight. You look at it, that's the difference. We had a number of great chances in the second and third and it seemed like we just kept hitting the goalie here. But, you know, we have ot bring the same type of effort we did in the third here. It's the same old story. Everytime we don'tmnage the puck well, it ends uo in the back of our net and costing us hockey games."
Backlund on turning point in game:
"I think it's in the second period we score a goal and we have to be better than that to allow two goals in right away. Looch did a great job stepping up for us, creating momentum, and I think we had some chances and finally scored and then we set ourselves back by letting two goals in right after we scored. Can't happen at this time of the year."
Interim coach Geoff Ward on biggest issues in game:
"Well, probably puck management at critical times in the game. I thought we created some good chances, didn't cash, but we had some good ones. You know, at the end of the day, I thought some of the turnovers and things in the neautral zone came back to haunt us. At this time of the year, we have to make sure there's nothing (like that)."
"And then, of course, the two powerplays in the third period when you get the 5-on-3, you gotta be a bit more efficient there and make sure we make that work for us. I thought those were all key points in the hockey game."
Defenceman Alexander Yelesin played his first NHL game Wednesday night, suiting up for a Flames team still without blueliners Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic. Keeping with traditions, his teammates let him go out alone with the first warm-up lap while they stayed in tunnel. Never gets old! ... The Flames now have a record of 17-16-4 against Western Conference opponents, and are 10-9-1 against the Pacific Division ... Ryan is now eight games away from 300 in his career ... Two pretty awesome young fans, Adam and Isaiah, were on hand to read out the starting lineup for the Flames before the game. Check out the video below from inside the dressing room.
Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Matthew Tkachuk
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson
TJ Brodie - Michael Stone
Oliver Kylington - Alexander Yelesin
The Flames finish out this four-game roadie with a date down Interstate 5 with the Ducks on Thursday. They return home to face the Blackhawks Saturday in a Hockey Night In Canada tilt. Click for tickets, before hosting the Ducks on Feb. 17 in a Family Day matinee affair at 2 p.m. Click for tickets.