Kings 2, Avalanche 1, OT

The Los Angeles Kings celebrated and reveled in Dustin Brown’s

game-winning goal for just a few moments.

Then, the exultation was quickly quieted, that chapter of the

season closed.

It was time to move on and prepare for the postseason, a place

the Kings haven’t been since 2002.

Brown ensured the Kings head into the playoffs with a burst of

momentum after scoring 1:31 into overtime for a 2-1 win over the

Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

Next up for the Kings will be the Vancouver Canucks in a

first-round matchup in the Western Conference.

“It’s my first playoffs so I’m excited,” said Brown, whose

team leapfrogged Nashville with the win to gain the sixth seed.

“Vancouver’s been a good team all year. We’ll start focusing on

what we need to do to beat them.”

As the eighth seed, the Avalanche draw San Jose in the opening

series.

Not a bad turnaround considering Colorado occupied last place in

the West a season ago.

But with new coach Joe Sacco in charge and a young nucleus, the

Avalanche rebounded in a hurry.

And while the Avalanche will definitely be an underdog against

the Sharks, it’s a role the team has come to relish.

“I think it’s almost easier to play that way,” Milan Hejduk

said. “You go there and you play loose. The pressure is definitely

on them. Sometimes, it’s not that easy to play with that kind of

pressure.”

The Avalanche led this game most of the way after Ryan Stoa

scored in the opening period.

But the Kings tied it up late in the third when Jarret Stoll

redirected a shot past Craig Anderson.

In overtime, Brown tallied the game-winner as he poked in a shot

off a rebound. It was his 24th goal of the season.

This kind of game has been par for the course lately for L.A.

Entering Sunday, the Kings’ last four games had been decided by a

shootout.

“You don’t want to go to the shootout or overtime,” Anze

Kopitar said. “But that’s the way it is. Overall, it’s a great

season, we should be proud of that. It’s a new chapter starting

tomorrow and we’ve got to get ready.”

The Kings nearly won the game with 30 seconds remaining in

regulation, only to have Anderson stop Alexander Frolov’s

point-blank shot with his right pad at the last moment.

Prior to Stoll’s goal, the Kings’ best scoring chance came

courtesy of a misplayed puck by Anderson in the opening period. The

Avalanche goalie tried to clear it from behind the net, only to

have Kopitar poke it away and nearly score.

Other than that, Anderson was solid all afternoon – all season

really. Anderson set franchise records for starts, minutes played,

shots faced and saves.

He’s been a big part of the Avalanche’s turnaround. Not very

many experts picked the Avalanche to make the playoffs.

Yet here they are.

“Expectations weren’t high. People didn’t have a lot of

expectations outside the organization,” Sacco said. “To have 95

points this year is pretty special, especially in this conference.

This is a very demanding and very tough conference and our guys

deserve a lot of credit for what they achieved this year.”

Kings goalie Erik Ersberg had 31 saves filling in for Jonathan

Quick. He allowed Stoa’s shot to slip through his pads, but that

was the only mistake Ersberg would make all day.

The Avalanche held out Matt Duchene (torso) and Peter Mueller

(head), two of their biggest offensive threats in recent weeks.

Duchene was injured in a center-ice collision against Edmonton

on Wednesday. He played in the first period of Friday’s loss to

Chicago, but left when the injury flared up again. The rookie of

the year candidate was taken to the hospital as a precaution and

later discharged.

Mueller has missed the last four games after taking a hit along

the boards against San Jose. Mueller has accumulated 20 points

since being acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline.

Asked about the chances of Mueller and Duchene returning for the

postseason Sacco said, “I’m optimistic.”

NOTES: Kings D Drew Doughty earned his 43rd assist of the season

by setting up Brown’s game-winner. … The Kings finished with 101

points. It’s the first time they’ve surpassed the 100-point mark

since 1990-91.