LA Kings break scoring slump, beat Coyotes 4-3
By GREG BEACHAM
The Kings needed every improbable contribution they could get to end one of the worst scoring droughts in franchise history.
Mitchell scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and the Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 Monday night with their highest-scoring performance in over a month.
Scuderi, Brad Richardson and captain Dustin Brown also scored for the Kings in their second victory under new coach Darryl Sutter. Los Angeles scored at least three goals for the first time in 15 games since Nov. 22, ending the 44-year-old club's longest stretch of such low-scoring hockey.
So what if Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera probably should have stopped both third-period goals from Mitchell and Brown? The Kings will take their newfound potency on the road with them - even if they end up traveling without high-scoring forward Simon Gagne, who incurred an unspecified injury during the game.
"I'm sure he'd like to have a couple of those plays back," said Scuderi, who hadn't scored since Feb. 5. "But it's an attitude we're trying to get here. We're trying to turn the page. It's unfortunate that it cost someone their job, but we're just trying to get things together."
Jonathan Quick stopped 26 shots for Los Angeles, which climbed into a three-way tie with Phoenix and Colorado for ninth place in the Western Conference. Only the New York Islanders have scored fewer goals this season than the Kings, who have won four of six following a five-game skid that cost coach Terry Murray his job.
Mitchell drove the net and put the Kings ahead shortly after the third period began with a shot that banked off LaBarbera's chest. Brown then chased LaBarbera with a change-of-pace shot that somehow went right through the goalie for Brown's 150th career goal.
"I think everybody's confidence is improving," said Anze Kopitar, who had two assists. "We know we can play a puck-possession type of game. We did a good job this time."
Yet even this steady victory might carry a steep cost: Gagne sat out the third period after getting "banged up" earlier in the game, according to Sutter. The seven-time 20-goal scorer has a history of concussions and other injuries.
LaBarbera, the former Kings goalie, made 25 saves before getting pulled from his third straight start in place of injured Mike Smith. Phoenix also played without center Martin Hanzal, who has a lower-body injury.
"With the injuries we have in our lineup, we wanted to make sure we competed hard and give ourselves the best chance of winning," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We were hanging around the whole game, right until the end. I think there were a couple of goals in the third that Barb would like to have back. Those were tough to overcome. I know (Brown's goal) went up short side on him, and you don't like to see a goal scored on the short side."
The Coyotes returned from the holiday without Smith, who strained his groin on a non-contact play at Florida last week. Phoenix put Smith on its injured list Monday and recalled former Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney, who replaced LaBarbera with 13:54 to play.
"When you're chasing them in the game the whole time, it makes it even more difficult," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "They scored early, and it was one of those games where we were chasing them for the rest of the night. In the second period, I thought we had control of the game, but we let it get away from us. We tried to get it back in the third, but it was too late."
Torres evened it after Scuderi's slap shot put the Kings ahead less than 5 minutes in. Richardson then tipped home Slava Voynov's shot in front of LaBarbera late in the first period, getting just his second goal in 27 games this season.
Torres scored the second period's only goal on an exceptional blue line-to-blue line pass by Patrick O'Sullivan, who was recalled from Phoenix's AHL affiliate in Portland earlier Monday.
"I didn't really expect much, but Sully just put it right on my tape in mid-stride and I was able to finish," said Torres, who had his first multigoal game since leaving Vancouver to sign with Phoenix in the offseason.
Langkow kept it close with a fast-break goal just 33 seconds after Brown's score, converting a rebound of Mikkel Boedker's shot.
NOTES: F Mike Richards briefly went to the Kings' locker room in the second period after getting hit in the ear by a shot from Drew Doughty. ... Doughty had an assist in his fourth straight game, matching his career high. Los Angeles' $56 million defenseman has just 14 points in 31 games this season.
Updated December 27, 2011