GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jarret Stoll
saw the puck sitting behind goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the Phoenix crease and figured the only way to finish off a hard-working, game-winning shift was to dive after it.
Stoll swept in the rebound on the backhand as he crashed to the ice with 15:03 left in regulation and the Kings, who coughed up an early 3-0 lead but didn't quit, won for just the third time in their last 13 games beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena.
"I knew it was behind him but I didn't know how long it would be there so I had to get there as quick as possible and get my stick on it," said Stoll, whose 14th goal of the season as a huge one for the struggling Kings. "Getting out of these streaks is never easy. Every team is scrapping for every point."
The Coyotes had beaten the Kings five straight times dating back to last season, including a 2-0 shutout in Los Angeles on Thursday. But the Kings came out flying in the rematch and looked like they would run away when Justin Williams,Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez all beat Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the first 13:33.
The Coyotes have allowed six first-period goals in three home games this week - losing them all to fellow Western Conference playoff challengers San Jose, Nashville and Los Angeles.
Phoenix came alive and reeled in the Kings as Lee Stempniak scored two goals, giving him six in four games against the Kings this season, and Martin Hanzal added one on the power play to even the game 3-3 heading into the third period.
"I think we just started to relax," said Stempniak, who has five goals in the last five games, three of them against the Kings. "We just kind of took a step back and realized we weren't doing anything right. A lot of guys were throwing their bodies around and it gave us some energy and got us back in the game."
But the Kings regained their composure and work ethic in the final period, and the hard work was evident on the winning goal when they fought to keep the puck pinned in the Phoenix zone for an extra chance. Bryzgalov stopped Jack Johnson's shot from the high slot but couldn't control the rebound as he sprawled to the ice, and Stoll left his feet to give Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick his 20th win of the season.
"We're going through a rough stretch and that winning goal was a special kind of shift, just tremendous," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "It's a shift you pull off (tape), show your team and encourage them to follow as a template. That's 35 or 40 seconds of a lot of support, good hard work, cycling and eventually it ends up in the net with a great effort at the end by Stoll.
"It's good for our confidence and good for getting a handle on our own game again."
Phoenix missed a chance to claim fourth place in the West, instead slipping to sixth behind Anaheim with 57 points.
"That was an opportunity to put L.A. 10 (points) back of us and unfortunately it didn't happen," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.
The Kings had only two goals in their last three games but needed less than eight minutes to equal that total against the sleepy Coyotes. Phoenix played without three defensemen in Ed Jovanovski (lower body),Derek Morris (lower body) andDavid Schlemko (upper body), and lost another whenMichal Rozsival suffered a lower-body injury in the second period.
Those left on the Coyotes patchwork blue line, including Chris Summers - a minus-3 in 14 minutes in just his second NHL game -- struggled.
Williams got it started just 1:22 after the opening faceoff, taking the puck from Summers and racing in with teammateRyan Smyth. Williams finished off Smyth's feed for his 18th goal as the Kings did something they couldn't do in Los Angeles on Thursday - score on Bryzgalov.
They did it again at 7:34, when Anze Kopitar won a faceoff back to Doughty, whose shot from the right point went past Bryzgalov's glove for his seventh goal. When Martinez beat Bryzgalov from a bad angle with an innocent-looking shot, the Kings had a 3-0 lead and something they've been seeking for a month - a head of steam.
Hearing boos from the hometown crowd, the Coyotes finally returned fire at 14:25 whenTaylor Pyatt's wrist shot from along the sideboards deflected off Stempniak's glove in the crease.
A high-sticking penalty to Smyth gave Phoenix a power-play chance early in the second and Yandle fed Hanzal in the slot for a whirling backhander at 3:05. It was Hanzal's 11th goal and second in two games - but not nearly as controversial as his goal Thursday in Los Angeles, one which the Kings vehemently protested was deflected in by a high stick.
Phoenix tied it when Pyatt fed Stempniak on the rush and he beat Quick cleanly with a wrister to the top corner at 18:17.
But the Kings didn't buckle and won a game they had to have -- they play home games against Boston and San Jose next week, then begin a 10-game road trip after the All-Star break.
"We felt like we played a pretty solid game against these guys Thursday and didn't get the result we wanted. That's been the story for this hockey club lately," Stoll said. "We hope this is the start of something, a chance to get back to winning ways and get the confidence that we can beat anyone."