LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Kings spent much of the season waiting for their role players to step up.
The contributions they had been seeking finally came, putting the Kings on the verge of making the playoffs.
Dustin Brown had a short-handed goal, and Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Clifford also scored to help Los Angeles move back into third place in the Pacific Division with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.
Jonathan Quick made 27 saves for the Kings, who are one point ahead of Anaheim and can secure a postseason berth by earning one point from their final two games.
”It’s a big step,” Brown said. ”Things have to go really wrong for us and really good for other teams, but you’re never in until you’re in.”
Alexander Kerfoot had a power-play goal and Jonathan Bernier stopped 22 shots for the Avalanche.
Colorado leads St. Louis by one point for the second Western Conference wild card, but the Blues have a game in hand. The Avalanche host the Blues on Saturday in the final game of the regular season for both.
”We have a young team, but there are still no excuses,” Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov said. ”We know we should be in the playoffs. We are a good team and we’ve worked hard all season. We’ve got to get creative.”
The Kings played more than 56 minutes with just five defensemen after Derek Forbort was injured when he was checked into the boards by Gabriel Bourque. Alec Martinez played a career-high 32:11, one of four Kings defensemen to play at least 20 minutes.
”You ask big minutes out of those guys, to dig in and play with different partners, possibly play the wrong side and different matchups than you’re accustomed to,” Kings coach John Stevens said. ”I thought that effort on the back end in terms of how far they dug in and how hard they competed was excellent.”
Stevens could not update the condition of Forbort, who left the dressing room on crutches and unable to put any weight on his right leg.
While their defensive depth was pushed to the limits, the Kings got some much-needed offense from their bottom two lines.
Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead at 9:29 of the first period thanks to an opportunistic goal by Mitchell. Bernier was caught by surprise when Nate Thompson’s shot hit the boards and bounced into the crease, jumping into the air to avoid sending it back into his own net. Mitchell charged in to score his sixth of the season.
Brown made it 2-0 at 12:32, scoring his 24th on a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle.
Clifford scored on a wraparound two minutes into the third period to restore a two-goal lead for the Kings after Kerfoot cut the deficit to 2-1 at 4:33 of the second, going top shelf over Quick’s glove for his second goal in two games.
Clifford ended a run of 12 games without a goal. Mitchell hadn’t scored since Feb. 20.
”You see what guys are willing to do this time of year and emotionally invest in a game,” Stevens said. ”I thought everybody was willing to dig in when the game mattered. We all know the enormity of this game for both teams, and we knew it was going to take a second and third effort on a lot of plays to get it done.”
NOTES: The Kings swept the season series against the Avalanche, limiting them to one goal in each of the three games. … Avalanche forward Colin Wilson had an assist after missing the previous five games with a lower-body injury.
Avalanche: Visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
Kings: Host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
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