LOS ANGELES – Dustin Brown figured the Los Angeles Kings’ ninth straight victory contained everything that a moment of Hollywood hockey history deserves.
The Kings fell behind 3-0 in the first period against a longtime antagonist. After an emotional between-periods meeting, they rallied ferociously to tie it – and after getting the go-ahead goal in the final minutes, Los Angeles hung on for a dramatic triumph.
Michal Handzus scored his second goal on a rebound with 2:21 to play, and the Kings set the franchise record for consecutive wins with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
“We didn’t play a very good first, but I think it’s been our attitude this year that we’re never out of a game, especially with the way things are right now,” said Brown, the Kings’ captain. “Winning nine games in a row is obviously a franchise record, and I think what’s special about it is that it’s a team accomplishment. We haven’t had one or two guys win these games for us.”
Alexander Frolov, Handzus and Ryan Smyth scored in the second period, and Jonathan Quick made 20 saves in his NHL-leading 34th victory. The Kings surpassed the Second Six franchise’s eight-game winning streaks established by Wayne Gretzky’s 1991-92 team and the 1972-73 squad.
Los Angeles needed just two shootout victories to establish this mark with a roster that’s only now discovering what it can do. After a midseason swoon that dropped them from first place in the Western Conference to the middle of the pack, the Kings have moved back up to third with their 11th victory in 12 games.
“We have a lot of confidence right now, and we know that if we stick to our game, most nights we will be successful,” said Handzus, who also had an assist to give him six points in the last two games. “We knew we didn’t play well in the first period. … We decided not to try and hit a home run. We just wanted to try and score the first goal and go from there. It’s great, and a great comeback for us.”
Although coach Terry Murray nearly pulled Quick after the first period, he instead shuffled his lines and stuck with his workhorse goalie following a players-only meeting. The U.S. Olympian responded with flawless work in his 12th straight appearance, moving within one win of the franchise’s single-season victories record.
“It’s a very satisfying win to see the players come together for each other,” Murray said. “We want to build on it. We’ve got some big games before the Olympic break, so we want to push hard until we get there.”
Henrik Zetterberg scored two goals for the Red Wings, who lost for the ninth time in 12 games while losing three players, including forward Tomas Holmstrom, to injuries. Valtteri Filppula also scored for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard made 23 saves.
“They weren’t exactly the prettiest of goals, kind of fluky ones that squeaked in, but we can’t sit and pout and feel sorry for ourselves,” Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “We’ve got to get back on the horse and get a couple of wins at home. It’s getting to a point where the games are numbered, so we’ve got to turn this thing around before the break and get some momentum going.”
But with just their second loss at Staples Center since March 2003, the Red Wings are going the wrong way – and they’re losing players at an alarming rate, four games into a five-game road trip.
Holmstrom, the Swedish Olympian and sturdy presence in front of opponents’ nets, injured his left leg late in the first period. Left wing Drew Miller and right wing Patrick Eaves both went to the dressing room in the third with ankle injuries.
With Detroit leading 3-1, Howard mishandled a dump-in at the side of his net, clumsily knocking the puck away from himself with nobody around him. Handzus pounced for his 14th goal.
“That’s just how they play,” Howard said. “They play hard and they don’t give up. They play the full 60 minutes. It’s tough. I take a lot of the blame for it. I didn’t think I had my best outing today, and I was very disappointed with the way I played.”
Smyth tied it less than two minutes later with his 18th goal, holding off two defenders with his back to the net.
Detroit failed to convert on two power-play chances in the third period, with Zetterberg and Helm hitting the posts behind Quick.
Handzus then won it after Parse hammered away at Frolov’s shot from the edge of the crease. The puck slipped past Howard and set up easily for Handzus, setting off a wild celebration at Staples Center.
NOTES: Mario Lessard won 35 games for the Kings during the 1980-81 season. Quick has played in 53 of the Kings’ 58 games this season. … Before the game, Detroit traded LW Ville Leino to Philadelphia D Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. The trade likely clears a roster spot for veteran Johan Franzen, who’s expected to return from a torn knee ligament Tuesday in St. Louis.