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Toffoli's hat trick powers Kings past Flames

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't long ago that Tyler Toffoli was bed-ridden and the Los Angeles Kings stuck in a losing streak, but it seemed like years ago Thursday.

Toffoli scored three goals for his first NHL hat trick and linemates Jeff Carter and Dwight King combined for a goal and four assists to help the Kings defeat the Calgary Flames 5-3 at Staples Center. The Kings (24-18-12) moved within three points of the Flames (30-22-3), who hold fourth place in the Pacific Division and own the second Western Conference wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We said it before the game and in-between periods that we need both these points, and we can't give them any," Toffoli said. "That was a huge third period for us and a huge win."

Los Angeles has won three straight for the first time since Nov. 15-20 thanks largely to Toffoli, who has six goals in seven games since he returned from a case of mononucleosis. His 18 goals lead the Kings.

"I felt fine the whole time, really," Toffoli said. "It was just that my spleen was enlarged and I was just itching to get back and finally got back. I had a couple of tough games, but I feel like my game's at a whole new level now."

Toffoli completed his hat trick with a breakaway goal at 8:18 of the third period to end the night for Flames goalie Jonas Hiller, who allowed five goals on 40 shots his 33rd birthday. The line of Toffoli, Carter and King has eight goals and six assists in three games. Carter tied a career-high with three assists and had his 500th career point on Toffoli's second goal.

"The difference tonight was that we capitalized on our chances," Carter said. "It's a big win for us. We've been in these games before, and a lot of them in that past couple of years. Not a lot needs to be said in this room. If you looked around the room before the game, you could tell that everyone was ready. Everyone realized what tonight was about."

Calgary was outshot 45-18 and showed little resistance outside of a two-goal flurry in the second period. The Flames had beaten the Kings the previous three games this season, including two in overtime at Staples Center. Hiller allowed King to score the go-ahead goal 59 seconds into the third with a snap shot that squeezed under his arm, and he was beaten on a slap shot from above the left circle by Jordan Nolan at 6:44.

Calgary coach Bob Hartley and his players assessed it bluntly.

"Tonight's pretty simple to analyze: They played like Stanley Cup champions tonight," Hartley said of the Kings.

"They came out on a mission. They gave us a tough night. There's no detour about it. They bottled us in our zone and we couldn't find a way to get out. That goal late in the second really hurt us. It gave them the momentum. Usually in the third period we're very good, but tonight we had no answers."

The Flames failed to mount a significant push late. They had outscored opponents 68-35 in the third period this season but did not possess the puck a lot.

"I think those guys outworked us in a lot of areas of the rink tonight," forward Mason Raymond said. "For us, we know as a group, it just wasn't good enough. We need to be better. They got the win and the results because they were better."

Los Angeles had Calgary under duress for most of the second period and it paid off when Toffoli scored his second goal of the night with 16 seconds left. Defenseman Jake Muzzin put the puck on net and Toffoli tapped it in out of midair from the crease to get the Kings even at 2-2.

David Jones and Raymond scored twice in 32 seconds early in the second to give the Flames a 2-1 lead. Jones deflected T.J. Brodie's point shot into the net on the power play at 3:09, and Raymond buried Matt Stajan's pass into an open net at 3:41. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was outraged because of traffic on the play and got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for breaking his goalie stick, but Calgary was unable to convert the ensuing power play.

Toffoli highlighted a strong puck-possession first period for the Kings with a toe-drag finish of a 3-on-2 at 3:16. Carter carried the puck up ice and gave it to Toffoli, whose wrist shot went underneath Hiller.

Former Kings coach Barry Melrose, who led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final in 1993, was honored before the game.

The current coach, Darryl Sutter, tied Larry Robinson for fourth on the franchise's all-time wins list at 122.

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