Rookie Anze Kopitar scored his 20th goal of the season with 53 seconds remaining and the Kings beat Phoenix 3-2 on Saturday in their season finale, clinching last place in the Western Conference for the Coyotes.
“It is a pretty fitting way for our season to end,” said Kings coach Marc Crawford, whose team won 11 of 35 one-goal games. “We’ve had to battle to be any good. We could not win games this year if we didn’t have a great effort. I can’t be too critical of the effort our veteran players gave this year and our young players followed with.”
Scott Thornton and Michael Cammalleri scored 2½ minutes apart in the second period for the Kings, who avoided finishing last by beating their Pacific Division rivals and snapping a six-game losing streak. Jaroslav Modry and Dustin Brown each had two assists.
Mike Zigomanis and Nick Boynton scored for the Coyotes, who will finish their season Sunday against Vancouver. They lost their final seven road games and finished 13-26-2 away from home.
“If you’re not in the playoffs, it’s embarrassing. But to be last is not something you want to be,” Boynton said. “It’s not something to be proud of.”
Los Angeles finished 27-41-14. Of the 13 coaches that made it all the way through their first season with the Kings, Crawford is the fourth with at least 40 losses – joining Don Perry, Larry Robinson and Larry Regan.
“I think the message is pretty apparent,” Cammalleri said. “I think a lot of guys in here are optimistic about the fact that we’re going to be better – probably sooner than a lot of people might think. And that’s exciting for us.”
The Kings missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season, matching the longest drought in the franchise’s 40-year history. They had 68 points, their lowest total in a regulation season since 1996-97, when they had 67.
Cammalleri led the team with 80 points.
“There’s probably a lot of guys in the lineup today who won’t be in it in the future,” Crawford said. “But they can take some solace in the fact that they’ve at least showed some veteran leadership and showed the right way for a lot of these great young players who will form the nucleus of the Kings in the future. And I think the Kings’ future is very bright. L.A. is a city of stars, but I also think it’s a city that appreciates hard work and winning as well.”
Jeremy Roenick was sent off for hooking with 17:56 to play and Derek Morris followed him into the penalty box on a tripping infraction 38 seconds later. The Kings capitalized with 49 seconds left on the five-on-three advantage, as Kopitar converted Alexander Frolov’s pass through the crease.
Los Angeles spotted Phoenix a 2-0 lead before Thornton scored his fifth career short-handed goal at 11:43 of the second period, just nine seconds after Kopitar received a hooking penalty. Cammalleri got the equalizer, beating Curtis Joseph with a short wrist shot at 14:12 of the period – the moment that Niko Kapanen’s roughing penalty expired. It was his 34th goal, one fewer than Frolov had for the team high.
Kings heralded rookie defenceman Jack Johnson got into his first NHL fight when he went toe-to-toe with Daniel Carcillo at 15:26 of the first period. Less than 2½ minutes later, Zigomanis opened the scoring with his 14th goal.
Notes: Mathieu Garon finished with a 13-10-6 record. This is the sixth time in Kings history that none of their goaltenders had more than 13 wins. … It was the third time the Kings went through a season without any player recording a hat trick (also 1970-71 and 2003-04). … Los Angeles was 16-16-9 at home. They had nine sellouts and averaged 16,473, the second-lowest figure in their seven seasons at Staples Center. … This is the first time since 1985-86 that the Kings failed to win more than two consecutive games. It was also the first time they have played an entire season without getting shut out at home since 1995-96.