LOS ANGELES (AP) — With five straight victories, the Los Angeles Kings are digging their way out of a slump that has threatened their playoff chances.
Jordan Nolan scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Jeff Carter added an insurance score in a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
“Things are coming together for us,” said Anze Kopitar, who scored the tying goal in the second. “We’re playing with more inspiration as we should have before. We’re getting some breaks, which doesn’t hurt.”
The Kings had lost three in a row before the current streak, their longest since taking six straight games from Oct. 12-26. The defending Stanley Cup champions are still fighting for a playoff berth, though.
“We’re still in a hole,” Kopitar said. “We know where we stand, so we’ve got to keep on going.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 21 shots in his fifth consecutive victory.
Nolan scored his fourth of the season at 3:36, taking a pass from Dwight King and putting the puck in the top of the net to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.
“Every win is going to be big from here on,” Nolan said.
King notched his second assist on Carter’s 16th goal at 13:58 of the third. Drew Doughty flipped a pass to Carter just past the blue line and Carter converted, extending the Kings’ lead to 3-1.
Kopitar tied the game 1-all on a breakaway at 7:04 of the second. Trevor Lewis found a streaking Kopitar, whose shot just cleared the top of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right blocker.
“Right away in the second period we started playing well,” Doughty said. “It’s like we woke up. His goal gave us a huge boost.”
Vasilevskiy made 25 saves for the Lightning, who were playing the second half of a back-to-back.
“Sometimes when you play pretty well, you don’t win,” center Brian Boyle said. “And that’s what this time of year is all about, the attention to detail. So the margin for error is really, really small. We had a couple of breakdowns, and they’ve got some guys who can shoot the puck.”
Nikita Nesterov raced in, picked up a rebound and scored top shelf for his first NHL goal at 12:11 of the first, giving Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. The Lightning got a late goal from Tyler Johnson with 36 seconds left to cut it to 3-2.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” Johnson said. “They’re very structured and they don’t give you very much. You beat one guy and they always have another guy there. But I don’t think we played well enough in the third period or stuck to our structure enough. We weren’t forcing plays and weren’t able to feed each other enough.”
The Kings have scored 19 goals during their winning streak. Their defense clamped down on Tampa Bay, the league’s highest-scoring team with 189 goals.
NOTES: With 44 points, the Kings (19-6-6) extended their best home start through 31 games in franchise history. … Los Angeles hasn’t scored a power-play goal during its winning streak. … Lightning D Luke Witkowski went down behind his net a couple of minutes into the game when he took a hard hit from Lewis in the front and Kopitar in the back. Witkowski eventually got up and skated off on his own before returning in the second. … The Kings completed a season sweep of the Lightning, including a 4-2 victory on the road Feb. 7. … Tampa Bay fell to 4-6-1 in the second game of a back-to-back.
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