-- Los Angeles Kings
captain Dustin Brown
scored a power-play goal and the shootout winner and Jonathan Quick
stopped 31 shots in a pulsating 3-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs
at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.
The victory was a much needed one for the Kings, who had lost six of seven games. It evened the record of interim coach John Stevens at 2-2, with new bench boss Darryl Sutter expected to be officially introduced Tuesday.
Stevens, who is expected to be retained as an assistant, stressed the positives of the situation the new coach is inheriting.
"The one thing he can rest assured is that we have some quality people here to build around," Stevens said of Sutter. "We've got a lot of good soldiers in the room there who are going to help us get out of this."
Monday was a good first step towards turning things around. For the first time in 12 games, the League's lowest-ranked offense scored 3 goals in a contest, peppering Leafs goaltender James Reimer
with 42 shots.
Brown was particularly strong, leading the way with 6 shots on goal and 5 hits. The top line of Brown, Anze Kopitar
and Simon Gagne
was dangerous all night, sustaining puck possession in the Leafs' zone and cycling to create multiple scoring chances.
"It's important that we got two points," Brown said. "For everyone, it's been a long road trip -- not only with the travel, but with everything that has gone on."
Only the heroics of Reimer, who made 40 saves, kept the Leafs in the game and allowed them to gain a valuable point in the standings. Toronto coach Ron Wilson lauded his goaltender.
"He played really well, he saw just about every puck in traffic, he made some great saves," said Wilson. "He had some trouble at times handling the puck, but I'd be nitpicking. He made the saves we needed."
Reimer, who has struggled recently since after returning from a concussion, drew confidence from his performance.
"I was reading the play and the pucks were hitting me," Reimer said. "To get that result, it just gives you more confidence. When they're not going your way, you have to work hard and fight and be mentally tough to give yourself confidence and this it just gives you a little bit of a boost."
Reimer and Quick both had to be sharp right from the opening faceoff. In a wide-open first period, the Leafs outshot the Kings 15-14. Justin Williams
opened the scoring at 7:54 when he took advantage of a strange bounce off a dump-in by Drew Doughty
. The puck caromed off the glass right into the slot and Williams beat Reimer with a wrist shot for his fifth of the season.
The Leafs answered just over three minutes later, as Matt Frattin
's aggressive forecheck forced Quick to fire the puck blindly around the boards right to Tyler Bozak
. The latter then fed John Michael-Liles moving in from the left point, and Liles blasted a slap shot past Quick for his fourth goal of the season.
The Kings dominated the second period, outshooting the Leafs 16-4, and scored the only goal on a controversial play. L.A.'s struggling power play finally broke through for its first tally in seven games with Luke Schenn
in the box for tripping. Doughty made a key play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, starting a sequence of quick passes that went from Kopitar to Gagne to a wide-open Brown in the slot, where he fired it past Reimer for his seventh goal of the season.
But Wilson thought Doughty might have failed to keep the puck inside the blue line.
"I'm not sure if the puck was offside, but it sure looked like it," Wilson said.
Entering the third period down 2-1, the Leafs struck early to tie the game, as Frattin converted a long backdoor saucer pass from Mikhail Grabovski
for his fourth goal of the season. From there the goaltenders took over, holding the fort through the final period and overtime until the Kings prevailed in the shootout.
"It was huge," Doughty said. "It kind of (stunk) that they scored that goal to tie it up late, but we were pushing back. We needed that win. We needed that two points. Brownie did a great job with a great shot in the shootout, bar down, and it was huge for us. The two points is what we came here for, and it was great to get it."
The Leafs, who have now lost five of six games, will be without forward Colby Armstrong
for the immediate future as they try to right the ship on Thursday against Buffalo. Armstrong was a late scratch Monday when it was discovered he was dealing with a concussion suffered Saturday night against the Canucks.
The Kings, meanwhile, await the start of the Sutter era, which will begin at home Thursday against Anaheim.