LOS ANGELES - A scoring fest between the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, anyone?
Two of the NHL's most offensively challenged teams aren't noted for lighting up the scoreboard or big comebacks, but they put on a third-period outburst Saturday night that saw Nashville blow a two-goal lead, only to come away with a 4-3 victory at Staples Center.
David Legwand won an offensive-zone faceoff, went to the net and banged in Mattias Ekholm's rebound from the left side with 3:56 remaining for his second goal to break a 3-3 tie, and Nashville held on in a thriller.
"It was the only faceoff I won all night, but I got it back to the point and we got pucks to the night and the rebound went right to my stick and obviously [Kings goalie Jonathan] Quick was out of the net, so it was nice to get one," Legwand said.
Legwand actually won two faceoffs, but Nashville wasn't crunching numbers. The Predators badly needed to rebound after they blew a 3-0 lead against the Phoenix Coyotes and lost 5-4 in a shootout to kick off a seven-game road trip.
"The last game was a game I had to bounce back from," goalie Carter Hutton said. "It wasn't my best performance, and I knew that. They had faith in me, and we scored four goals again, which is huge.
"I think it says a lot about us right now, especially the way it worked, having blown a two-goal lead there. They had all the momentum. The crowd was behind them, and we just kept to it and kept to our game. Getting one late there was huge for us."
The talk going into the game centered around another Carter as Los Angeles played its first game without Jeff Carter, its co-leader in goals, because of a lower-body injury. Both teams lost centers and important faceoff men after two shifts in the second period. Nashville'sMike Fisher left the game with a lower-body injury and L.A.'s Jarret Stoll left with an undisclosed injury. Neither Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter and Nashville coach Barry Trotz had updates on their injured player.
Without Carter, L.A. still erased a 3-1 deficit in the third with goals byDustin Brown and Mike Richards in a span of 1:37. Brown's seeing-eye shot from a sharp angle deflected into the net at 9:41 and Richards picked the puck out of Hutton's feet Tyler Toffoli's rebound and tucked it in for a power-play goal with 8:42 left in regulation.
But the Kings fell short despite outshooting Nashville 38-17, including 14-6 in the third period. They lost in regulation for the third time this season after going 19-4-1 at home in 2012-13.
"We had a lot of shots … but maybe we should have got a little bit more bodies in front of them," said Anze Kopitar, whose goal late in the first period made it 2-1. "I think tonight was specials teams that won the game."
The Kings and Predators, two grinding teams that among the NHL's worst in 5-on-5 offense, combined for four goals in the first 29 minutes - quite a contrast to their Oct.17 meeting, a game the Kings won 2-1 in a shootout.
Nashville took a 3-1 lead into the third period despite managing all of 11 shots on goal thanks to two power-play conversions, a fortunate bounce and a career-high tying three assists by Patric Hornqvist.
Drew Doughty 's clearing attempt off the end boards hit a referee, and Hornqvist took the loose puck and nicely set up Eric Nystrom between the hash marks for a bang-in goal and 3-1 lead at 8:41 of the second.
L.A.'s usually strong penalty-killing unit has allowed nine goals in six games after Legwand and Shea Weber struck in the first period.
Legwand skated above the circles and fired a wrist shot past Quick, who was screened by Hornqvist, at 11:15. Weber made it 2-0 with an easy tap-in of Hornqvist's cross-ice feed at 19:06, a goal scored with Kyle Clifford off for boarding.
Asked about the penalty killing unit concerns, Sutter didn't hesitate to break it down.
"The first [goal] was Willie Mitchell, who's supposed to be a good penalty-killer, he lets Legwand walk off the wall and shoot it," Sutter said. "And the second one, [Matt] Greene and Willie - both are supposed to be good penalty-killers and both are not doing anything so obviously we got to look at the people we're using on the penalty kill.
"We kill similar to a lot of other teams but when there's one guy breaking down it tends to … we need some goaltending too."
Toffoli made his Kings season debut and took Carter's place on the second line with Richards andDaniel Carcillo. It didn't start well as he was high-sticked by Rich Clune on the opening faceoff and minutes later by Ekholm. But he finished with five shots on goal in more than 19 minutes of ice time.
Toffoli and Linden Vey arrived in L.A. after all-day travel Friday because of the shooting incident at Los Angeles International Airport.
"Give them credit," Sutter said. "Those kids had a long day yesterday. They didn't get into John Wayne [Airport, in Orange County] until 10:30 last night so they didn't get here until midnight. They were gone basically the whole day. But he (Toffoli) had a strong game."
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