Kings hold off Colorado 3-2 in shootout

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeff Carter and the Los
Angeles Kings jumped on Colorado’s first-time goalie for two goals in
the opening minutes. They let up shortly afterward, failing to find the
net again until the shootout.

Carter will look past the Kings’ momentary lapses as long as the Stanley Cup champions keep moving toward the playoffs.

Carter scored his 24th goal and scored
again in the shootout, and the Kings moved back into fourth place in the
Western Conference with a 3-2 win over the Avalanche on Thursday night.

Mike Richards also scored in the first
period against Colorado’s Sami Aittokallio, and Jonathan Quick made 26
saves as the Kings ended a two-game losing streak. Captain Dustin Brown
and Anze Kopitar also scored in Los Angeles’ 3-for-3 shootout against
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who came in late when Aittokallio went down with
cramps in both legs.

Carter is chasing the Richard Trophy
while he leads the Kings down the stretch, although their halfhearted
finish against the West’s worst team gave him pause.

“I thought we were really good in the
first,” said Carter, the NHL’s third-leading goal scorer. “We got pucks
deep and used their D, and when we’re doing that, we roll pretty good.
We got away from it. They started pressing a little bit, but good or
bad, it’s a big two points for us.”

Despite that unimpressive finish to
regulation, the Kings got back on track after giving up four goals in
the third period of their previous game, a 5-1 loss in Dallas on
Tuesday. Los Angeles (23-14-4), which hasn’t lost three straight since
an 0-2-1 start to the season, leaped one point back ahead of San Jose,
which has a game in hand on the Kings.

Quick turned aside Matt Duchene’s clean
breakaway in the third period while earning his 145th career victory,
pulling the Conn Smythe Trophy winner even with Kelly Hrudey for the
second-most wins in franchise history.

“The first (period) was good,” Kopitar
said. “We came out strong, outshot them in the first by quite a bit, and
sat back a little bit, which is not the best thing to do, obviously.”

Patrick Bordeleau scored his first
career goal with 14:55 to play to even it for the last-place Avalanche,
who nearly pulled another upset in Southern California. Paul Stastny
also scored for Colorado, which ended a 14-game road losing streak since
Feb. 14 with a 4-1 win at powerful Anaheim on Wednesday.

Aittokallio stopped 23 shots in his NHL
debut for the Avalanche before leaving with 10:36 to play in
regulation. Giguere stopped 12 shots after relieving Aittokallio, but
couldn’t stop any Kings in the shootout.

“There’s been lots of positives the
last two games,” Giguere said. “We needed a bit of a push-back from the
guys. I think we did that the last couple of nights. It was a tough
start against a good team. We had a rookie goaltender, his first NHL
start, (but) he battled hard for us. He gave us a chance.”

Colorado had lost five straight before
knocking off the Pacific Division-leading Ducks, responding to Giguere’s
pointed public criticism with its most impressive win in a month. After
relieving Aittokallio, Giguere made a huge save in the final 30 seconds
of regulation, scrambling on his hands and knees to glove Carter’s
attempt at a wraparound goal.

“Once we got our legs under us, we
started to take the play to L.A.,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “When
Jiggy came in, he made some big saves for us. I’m proud of the way we
came back and competed. When you work hard and do things right, you get
rewarded.”

The Avalanche recalled Aittokallio from
the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters on Tuesday at the close of his first North
American pro season while Semyon Varlamov is sidelined with an injured
hip.

After Los Angeles’ early goals,
Aittokallio recovered and played well until he went down in a heap
untouched midway through the third period while the short-handed Kings
pressed the action in Colorado’s end. Sacco said Aittokallio became
dehydrated in the humid Staples Center.

Colorado also lost defenseman Erik Johnson early to an injured wrist.

Carter scored 5 minutes into the first
period during a power play, finding a small hole over Aittokallio’s far
shoulder with an impressive wrist shot. Just 1:47 later, Richards found
the puck in the slot and beat Aittokallio for his 10th goal.

When the Kings struggled in the second
period, Stastny jammed the puck under Quick for his ninth goal — his
first since returning Wednesday from an eight-game absence with a foot
injury.

Bordeleau evened it when his long shot
deflected off Kyle Clifford’s stick, slowing down the puck to a
change-up that slid past an unsuspecting Quick. The 27-year-old
Bordeleau made his NHL debut this season, but didn’t score a goal in his
first 38 games for Colorado.

NOTES:
Colorado kept C Milan Hejduk out of the lineup for the seventh straight
game, although the veteran scorer’s injured shoulder apparently has
healed enough for him to play. … The 20-year-old Aittokallio was a
fourth-round choice in the 2010 draft. … Richards extended his point
streak to five games.