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Handzus' late goal gives Kings ninth-straight win

by Josh Brewster

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings got their record-setting ninth consecutive victory thanks to their biggest comeback of the season.

The Wings spotted Detroit a 3-0 lead after one period, but Michal Handzus capped a four-goal comeback when he scored with 2:21 left in regulation, giving the Kings a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings on Saturday.

Handzus’ second goal of the game came after Alexander Frolov dug a puck out from the end boards to the left of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard. Handzus motored through the slot and took a shot that rebounded to Scott Parse, who shot again. Howard made that save, but Handzus pounced on the puck at the top of the crease and shot it along the ice, past Howard’s right pad.

“Those two guys, (Parse) and Frolov, did a great job,” said Handzus. “They stayed on the puck and they won the battles. They had two shots on one play and I got the rebound, and it was pretty much an empty net. The credit goes to those guys.”

“That’s the desperation, the perseverance that you have to continually show,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “That’s a good hockey club, Detroit. You have to earn the right to beat (them). We did the right stuff in the second and third period.”

The nine-game streak surpassed the previous franchise record set in 1972-73 and matched by the Wayne Gretzky-led club of 1991-92.

“I think what’s special about (the streak) is that it is a team accomplishment,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We have not had one or two guys win the games for us. Obviously (Quick) has been really strong in the net for us. When you can get scoring from every line, like we have, it is difficult to play against.”

Murray cautioned that the streak can be a blessing or a curse -- and said the Kings must react properly to their success.

“(The streak) can have a real positive effect, or it can go the other way, and you can get a little too complacent,” Murray said. “It starts to come easy. You get away from the extra effort that got you there. That’s what you have to guard against. We want to build on it. We’ve got some big games before the Olympic break.”

The Wings remained in ninth place behind Calgary in the West and fell to 1-2-1 on a five-game trip that ends in St. Louis on Tuesday.

“We need to get these points,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If we dig ourselves a big enough hole we won’t get out of it.”

The Wings also lost three players with injuries: Tomas Holmstrom hurt his left leg, while Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves left with ankle injuries.

"Hopefully none of those guys is hurt too badly," Babcock said.

Few in the sellout crowd of 18,118 at the Staples Center could have envisioned the Kings' streak getting to nine wins after a first period that saw Detroit score three times, including twice in 16 seconds.

Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring at 8:44 when he raced into the Kings zone and deflected a hard pass from Pavel Datsyuk over Jonathan Quick's right pad as the goaltender tried to go post-to-post. It was Zetterberg's 15th goal of the season and third in five games.

“Our big guys really played today,” said Babcock. “I was really impressed with (Zetterberg’s) line. It’s a disappointing loss for us. We have to find ways to get points, and we didn't do that today."

Valtteri Filppula made it 2-0 at the 9-minute mark, taking a pass by Dan Cleary that hit a Kings defenseman and backhanding a shot past Quick's left pad. It was Filppula's first goal in seven games.

Zetterberg got his second of the night at 19:55 with the teams skating 4-on-4, banging in the rebound of Brian Rafalski's shot. The Wings had eight shots on goal in the first period, and Zetterberg took five of them.

But the Kings tied it in the second period by scoring three times in a span of 7:05 -- aided by a pair of Detroit misplays.

L.A. got on the board at 9:16 after defenseman Brad Stuart's clearing attempt bounced off Handzus. Parse jumped on the loose puck and headed for the net, circled the Detroit cage and found Alexander Frolov. Howard stopped Frolov's first attempt to jam the puck into the net, but Frolov got the rebound and backhanded the puck over the line between Howard’s pad, glove and the post for his 13th of the season and just his second in his last 17 games.

“Parse stepped up to the Handzus line and made a big play,” Murray said.

Shortly after, a miscue by Howard changed the game.

The rookie goaltender went out to play what appeared to be a routine dump-in, but mishandled the puck and lost it between his legs. Handzus jumped on the opportunity, taking two swipes at the puck before sliding the puck between the goaltender's legs at 14:47 to make it 3-2.

"Their first two goals were gifts by us," Babcock said.

Ryan Smyth tied it at 16:21, setting up in front of the crease and popping home a pass by Wayne Simmonds, who had picked up a loose puck after Matt Greene's dump-in.

The Wings had the better of play for most of the third period, outshooting Los Angeles 11-6 and earning two power plays, but were unable to turn that into the go-ahead goal.

“It’s getting to the point where the games are numbered,” said Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi. “We’ve got to turn this around before the (Olympic) break.”

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