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Toffoli on fire as Kings oust Flames

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– Fueled by a hat trick off the stick of Tyler Toffoli, the Kings worked their way to a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames Thursday night at STAPLES Center.

For the Kings, Thursday night’s affair in downtown Los Angeles was a critical one, as they found themselves five points behind the Flames for the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card playoff spot.

“I think we stayed with it,” Toffoli said of the Kings’ performance. “They scored two quick goals but we didn’t let it phase us. We stayed with our game and kept working hard. We scored big goals at the right time. That was a huge third period for us and a huge win.”

Toffoli got the Kings on the board just over three minutes into the contest, moving laterally as he drove into Calgary’s slot, firing a wrist shot past Jonas Hiller low to the glove side.

Hiller was the biggest key to the Flames’ first period, which was a very good one for the Kings, who came out of the gate hot during the opening 20 minutes, outshooting Calgary 11-6, coming away with numerous scoring opportunities.

The Kings outshot the Flames 19-4 in the second period, but Calgary was able to get two pucks past Jonathan Quick in a 32 second span to take a 2-1 lead early in the middle frame.

With under a minute to play in the second, Toffoli beat Jonas Hiller again to knot the score 2-2. Toffoli knocked home a Jake Muzzin shot that Hiller couldn’t handle, taking advantage of a shaky rebound surrendered by the Flames’ goaltender.

“Tyler’s real strong in his own end,” Jeff Carter mentioned after the game. “He plays the right way. For a young guy, that’s pretty impressive. He battles on walls and makes plays to the center-man, which makes my life a lot easier. He’s a smart kid, and he gets it, so hopefully he can keep it going.”

Less than a minute into the third, Dwight King received a pass from Jeff Carter in the heart of Calgary’s slot, and snuck a wrist shot past Jonas Hiller, handcuffing the Flames’ goaltender. Just over five minutes later, Jordan Nolan received a pass from Drew Doughty as he blazed through the neutral zone, then walked into Calgary’s zone and fired a laser past Hiller high to the blocker side.

Tyler Toffoli notched his first-career NHL hat trick with just over 11 minutes to play in regulation, as he sped in alone and beat Hiller through the five-hole on a clear-cut breakaway sequence. Toffoli’s goal gave the Kings a 5-2 lead.

“It was exciting and a personal accomplishment, but in this time of year, it’s huge to get wins,” Toffoli said when balancing personal success over a team win. “This was our third straight win and we’ve got to keep rolling. We’re a pretty tight knit group here and individual stats don’t really mean a whole lot. We just want to win games. We’re trying to get consistent and the past three games have been really good.”

Calgary’s Mason Raymond cut the Kings lead to two with seven minutes to play, but that’s as close as the Flames would get all night; the Kings finishing the evening with a 5-3 victory.

Darryl Sutter has now tied Larry Robinson for fourth all-time on the Kings’ win list for head coaches, picking up his 122nd victory behind Los Angeles’ bench Thursday night.

The Kings have moved within three points of the Calgary Flames for the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card spot. They are also three points behind the Vancouver Canucks, and four points behind the San Jose Sharks for the second and third-place slots in the Pacific Division.

Tyler Toffoli led all Kings players in points scored (4), Jeff Carter in shots taken (8), Marian Gaborik and Kyle Clifford in hits delivered (4), Drew Doughty in shots blocked (6), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (32:11). Jonathan Quick made 15 saves in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 24-18-12; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center jumps to 17-6-6. The Kings have now won three consecutive games; they’ll continue their three-game home stand Saturday night when the Washington Capitals pay a visit to STAPLES Center. The puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM PT.

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