Whicker: Knights are having no trouble with the big dance

LOS ANGELES — So where did James Neal pick up that little dance move that will be replicated in clubs from the MGM Grand to the Mirage?

“My little brother taught me,” Neal said.

He shook his head and laughed.

Related: Vegas takes 3-0 series lead | Sunday’s boxscore

Neal actually has three little brothers, all of whom played high-level hockey. His team, the doggedly unbelievable Vegas Golden Knights, was supposed to be the 31st brother at the NHL table this year.

They feasted on the Pacific Division in the regular season, but then you started hearing that the playoffs would be different, that when one of the NHL’s traditional behemoths actually got a chance to break down the Knights on tape and play them in a best-of-seven, this desert flower would rot in the sun.

Instead, Vegas leads the Kings 3-0 after this 3-2, Game 3 victory at Staples Center Sunday night. It doesn’t appear the Knights are going to need seven to prove they’re the best.

The Kings came off the top rope repeatedly when Game 3 began, confident that they could rock the Knights into the shadows, fortified by the end of Drew Doughty’s suspension and the return of Jake Muzzin beside him.

They got a first-period goal from Alex Iafallo after Dustin Brown dug out a loose puck and gave it to Anze Kopitar, who found Iafallo at the opposite post.

They bounced the Knights all over the chessboard, with Adrian Kempe landing on top of John Merrill and not letting him up until he got a 3-count.

Then, at the end of the second period, they killed a delay-of-game penalty and got a whistle on Vegas with 1.1 seconds left. Doughty ruffled Jonathan Marchessault’s feathers and then got a return whack of the stick that sent Marchessault to the box.

Playing the big-brother role,  Doughty looked at Marchessault and pointed at his own brain.

“The referee always sees the second one,” said Gerard Gallant, the imminent NHL coach of the year. “It was the type of thing the Kings were doing all night. I didn’t feel good about being down 1-0. It probably should have been more.”

It wasn’t, because goalie Marc-Andre Fleury kept stopping the Kings’ drives and because the L.A. crease pressure was only occasional. Slowly the Knights lifted themselves back into the game.

They always do this because they’re neither as thin nor as young as expansion teams usually are, because they slowly keep the pot boiling as the game goes on. When special team situations happen, they don’t’ burn out their top players because they’re all first among equals. When they play a double-overtime game on a Friday night, they’re able to take care of the final minutes on Sunday night.

“I knew I had to make sure I did a lot of things I don’t normally do,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt. “I had to get the rest, had to drink the beet juice, get in the cold tub. All the extra stuff, we had to do that. It showed our resiliency in the third period. It’s the type of team I want to be a part of.

“That third period was one of the best you could possibly play. We told ourselves between periods that you know you’re going to face adversity in the playoffs. You never go into a game thinking you’re going to be down 1-0, but there’s no way you can get around something like that in the playoffs. I thought we did a good job for the most part, staying away from all the crap.”

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, top, gets tangled up with Vegas Golden Knights left wing James Neal during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in Los Angeles, Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, top, gets tangled up with Vegas Golden Knights left wing James Neal during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in Los Angeles, Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Not that the Knights got an A in deportment. The Kings and their fans have only begun to complain about the butt end of Eric Haula’s stick, which hit Kopitar in the chops and knocked him out of the game for a few shifts. No call was forthcoming.

But the Knights gradually turned up the speed on the treadmill until Ryan Carpenter fetched a puck and got it to Cody Eakin, who fired it over Jonathan Quick’s shoulder, punishing the Kings’ 70s line for failing to get it cleared.

Eight minutes after that, Schmidt gunned the puck up the ice to Neal on the right wall. Neal is 30, with significant tours of duty in Dallas, Pittsburgh and Nashville, a guy with 83 playoff games and 26 playoff goals now, a power-play sniper with some meanness to his game.

Oscar Fantenberg was the defenseman at Neal’s hip. Neal faked toward the ice, got Fantenberg to lean, and then slipped by him on the outside and shot the puck before Quick could set himself.

“I think he surprised the goalie with that shot,” Gallant said.

“Our goalie kept us in the game, but he’s done that all year, he’s done it for his career,” said Neal, who played with Fleury in Pittsburgh. “He’s been our backbone all year. And then it was a good play by Schmidty, pushing the D back and creating a gap.”

The mental damage from that goal could be measured 21 seconds later, when Hart Trophy candidate William Karlsson – yes, the ex-Duck who was traded to Columbus for James Wisniewski – scored yet again.

Down 3-1, Kopitar tipped a shot by Fantenberg past Fleury with 2:04 left. Another year, another time, another opponent, maybe the Kings get another one and usher in overtime.

Instead, Schmidt and Marchessault made composed, positional plays to clear pucks. Fleury was not pressured again.

The Kings are down to one lifeline, with Game 4 coming on Tuesday.

“From my point of view, this team has had resilience all year,” said John Stevens, the Kings coach.

Who knew they’d need resilience against a team that was just names on a computer printout 12 months ago? Nothing is more annoying than Little Brother, especially when he makes you look up.

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Whicker: Adrian Kempe draws up a winning picture for Kings

LOS ANGELES — Adrian Kempe won two of seven faceoffs Monday night.

When it came time to launch the Kings past a bleeding but ornery foe, he was one for one.

Kempe, 21 and learning the center position in a very hot laboratory, won a second-period draw against Calgary’s Mikael Backlund, in the left circle of the Kings’ offensive zone.

The puck bounced off the boards and back to Dion Phaneuf. The defenseman was looking for daylight in front of goalie Mike Smith and support from black shirts at the net. He saw both, and as Tyler Toffoli hopped out of the way, Phaneuf zipped the shot past Smith.

The Kings thus led 1-0 in the second period over a club that just recently gave up its playoff hopes and didn’t have the injured Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk or top scorer Johnny Gaudreau, who went home to New Jersey after his father suffered what was called a “cardiac event.”

The goal lifted the pressure of beating a team that should have lost but was resisting the notion, and the Kings got two more power-play goals and won 3-0.

“Everybody was out there checking and Quickie was incredible like he always is,” Phaneuf said, referring to goalie Jonathan Quick, who took care of 23 Calgary shots and gained his fifth shutout of the season, 49th of his career.

Since Colorado lost to Vegas, the Kings passed the Avalanche and are now in the first wild-card spot with 91 points. The Ducks, third in the Pacific, also have 91. The two meet at Honda Center on Friday night in perhaps the most significant regular-season collision they’ve ever scheduled, but first the Kings have Arizona here Thursday night. The Coyotes, playing for nothing but playing well, won at Tampa Bay on Monday.

“I thought we came off the road pretty well,” Kempe said, referring to the four-game trip that ended with a loss at Edmonton on Saturday. “We haven’t showed how well we can play at home, as opposed to the road, but we were pretty good in all three zones and we were very good on special teams tonight.”

Calgary’s Sam Bennett spent so much time in the penalty box that he almost got time off for good behavior. He committed three penalties, two of which the Kings turned into goals.

The second was a bullet by Anze Kopitar that caught the lower left corner of Smith’s net, his 34th goal, which ties a career high.

The third featured a special cross-ice pass from Dustin Brown that isolated Kopitar near the left circle. Instead of shooting he waited for Jeff Carter to come free and put a pass on his stick, which flipped it past Smith in one twitch.

The rowdiness of the Flames did accomplish one thing. When Michael Ferland rode Jeff Muzzin into the boards, Muzzin got up slowly and did not return. Coach John Stevens had no word on the extent of the UBI (upper body injury), but Derek Forbort played 25:55, on 28 shifts, and Drew Doughty 25:31.

Kempe has 16 goals and is plus-14 in his first full tour of the NHL. His faceoff win turned into his 20th assist, and he’s the first Kings rookie to do that since Doughty, nine seasons ago.

His faceoff percentage is 39.05. He is adjusting to the center position, so his struggles are understandable but still critical. The Kings have not asked Kempe to take a short-handed faceoff this season. His win against Backlund was his 33rd in 73 tries with the man-advantage.

“I know it’s something I need to improve,” Kempe said. “I think it comes with experience. You work on it in practice, and I watch Kopi a lot.”

Jaret Stoll, who always seemed to give the Kings’ championship teams a faceoff win when the sirens were blaring, has also tutored Kempe.

“It’s a new position for him and it’s tough to learn it in the best league in the world,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of detail work, but beyond that it becomes a one-on-one battle. To his credit he’s been putting in the work.”

Phaneuf’s goal fairly leaped from the greaseboard onto the ice. It took 0:05 of power-play time.

“We had good entries all night on the power play, and the big thing was shooting quickly when we had the chance,” Stevens said. “When you do that, you get the penalty-killers facing their own net. On that goal we knew they were looking to trap down, and guys recognized that and got into position for good angles. It was just good execution, and then when Carter scored (the third goal), that’s just three guys working together, three high-end guys who have a lot of success.”

For them, it was two-point business, routinely handled. For Adrian Kempe it might be a point of light.

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Anze Kopitar’s fluke goal leads Kings past Red Wings

  • Kings defenseman Paul LaDue (38), is congratulated for his goal during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings defenseman Paul LaDue (38), is congratulated for his goal during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and Jonathan Quick guard Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and Jonathan Quick guard Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Kings center Anze Kopitar brings the puck up the ice against Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser during the second period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings center Anze Kopitar brings the puck up the ice against Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser during the second period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Kings right wing Dustin Brown cannot get the puck past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jared Coreau during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings right wing Dustin Brown cannot get the puck past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jared Coreau during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Kings left wing Kyle Clifford looks on as Detroit Red Wings right wing Luke Glendening dives for the puck during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings left wing Kyle Clifford looks on as Detroit Red Wings right wing Luke Glendening dives for the puck during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Detroit Red Wings right wing Gustav Nyquist and Kings defenseman Paul LaDue battle on the boards during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Detroit Red Wings right wing Gustav Nyquist and Kings defenseman Paul LaDue battle on the boards during the first period of an NHL Hockey game, Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

  • Kings defenseman Drew Doughty brings the puck up the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

    Kings defenseman Drew Doughty brings the puck up the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

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LOS ANGELES — After a victory on Feb. 25, the Detroit Red Wings had a .500 record. But they have not won since, going 0-6-1 over their past seven games prior to taking on the Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center.

But as anyone following the Kings this season knows, they have been an up-and-down team, even though they are nevertheless contending for a playoff spot.

“I just think every team is dangerous in its own way,” Coach John Stevens said of the Red Wings at the morning skate.

Sometimes a team needs some luck. The Kings got some when Anze Kopitar scored what can only be called a fluke goal at 8:22 of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie and helping the Kings to a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings before a sellout of 18,230 at Staples Center.

The Kings (39-26-6, 84 points) went into Thursday’s game tied with the Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division, but moved two points ahead. A third-place divisional finish guarantees a playoff spot. The Kings have 11 games remaining.

Detroit is now 26-33-11 (63 points).

Kopitar and teammate Dustin Brown were battling the Red Wings’ Nick Jensen for the puck behind the Detroit net. The puck went off Kopitar’s stuck, into the air, hitting goalie Jared Coreau in the back and falling into the net and across the goal line.

When you’re on, you’re on.

And no one has been more on all season than @AnzeKopitar 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/nJN6h5Eezq

— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 16, 2018

It was No. 29 for Kopitar, with Brown and Drew Doughty getting the assists.

Tyler Toffoli added his 23rd of the season at 18:30 of the third, then Brown scored his 21st into an empty net.

The Kings took a 1-0 lead when defesnseman Paul LaDue scored his third of the season at 8:55 of the first period. Anze Kopitar won a faceoff, with the puck going to Alex Iafallo, who whipped a pass to LaDue standing inside the blue line.

LaDue let go a rocket of a shot that got past Red Wings goaltender Jared Coreau into the lower left corner of the net. Kopitar and Iafallo had the assists.

LaDue did not play in the previous 14 games – he sat out 13 as a healthy scratch and missed one while down on the farm at Ontario. LaDue had not been in a game since Feb. 13 at Carolina.

Detroit out-shot the Kings 7-6 in the first 20 minutes, during which the Kings had to kill one penalty because of a slashing call on Kyle Clifford.

The Kings entered with the second-best penalty kill in the league at 84.1 percent.

There was no scoring in the second period, and not many shots. The Red Wings had six shots for a two-period total of 13, the Kings had five for a total of 11.

The Kings had two power-play opportunities, but neither bore fruit.

There was a brief skirmish between Kings defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Detroit forward Tyler Bertuzzi at the 8:21 mark. After the whistle blew in front of the Kings’ net to stop play, Bertuzzi slashed Phaneuf in the leg. Phaneuf responded with a punch to the face that landed.

They did not drop the gloves, however, as order was quickly restored. Bertuzzi was penalized for slashing Phaneuf, and Phaneuf took a roughing penalty.

Unfortunately for the Kings, LaDue took a high-sticking penalty at the end of the period, and Detroit took advantage when Gustav Nyquist scored his 18th of the season, tying the score  just 45 seconds into the third period on the power play.

Niklas Kronwall and Frans Nielsen assisted.

Next up, the Kings host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Devils are struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

After Saturday, the Kings take off for a four-game trip that includes three teams in Western Conference playoff contention.

More to come on this story.

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Whicker: Kings finally have a night to remember against Knights

LOS ANGELES — What it takes to beat the Vegas Golden Knights:

• A power-play goal that bounces from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to the helmet of Cody Eakin, back past Fleury.

• A blast by Anze Kopitar with 10.8 seconds left that defies shutter speeds.

• A backhand-to-forehand creation by Dustin Brown, fashioned from his knees at the entrance to Fleury’s net that got over the pads and provided instant victory out of oatmeal.

The 3-2 win put the Kings back over the playoff line and sets up another close encounter Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Brown did his thing and then skated off, cracking up a Kings’ employee by telling him, “I can’t believe I was the No. 1 star.”

Belief came hard all night.

For more than two and a half periods, the Knights were busily underscoring their perch on top of the Western Conference. They were 41-16-4 at the time. Weren’t they supposed to quit playing like this by now? Actually they might be getting better.

Jonathan Quick was pushed to his utmost powers of denial. Twice he had to skate nearly to the blue line to stop a potential Vegas breakaway. Again and again he slid and stopped wide-open shots, haunting Alex Tuch in particular.

Only a bullet by Eric Haula got past him until the beginning of the third period, when Reilly Smith broke down Derek Forbort, went behind the net, came out to meet a rebound before Drew Doughty could stop him, and tapped a 2-0 lead past Quick.

“You have to get the puck past them in the offensive zone,” Brown said. “You have to get it behind their D. If you’re out there trying to make plays at the blue line, they break those up and they have three or four guys going the other way real quick. That’s how they catch you.”

But the Kings managed to defuse the Vegas power play and got an opening when Ryan Reaves was sent to the box. They converged on Fleury, and Jeff Carter, who hadn’t scored yet this season, took a bad-angle shot. Instead it turned into a mean pinball, ricocheting off Eakin’s head.

“It was a break but we were attacking the net,” Brown said. “We hadn’t gotten much time down low. Sometimes the puck got there and we weren’t there, sometimes we were there and the puck wasn’t there.”

With Quick pulled, the Kings threw everything into the breach. Two different scrambles in front of the net kept Fleury busy but produced no goals.

“I think Carts (Carter) and I probably had 35 shots each in the crease there,” Brown said.

Finally Kopitar fished the puck out of the goal-side scrum and flipped it out to Dion Phaneuf in the high slot. Then Kopitar disengaged and went to the right wing.

What happened next made you think of the great double-play combos in baseball. Phaneuf’s pass went right to Kopitar’s clubface, and it was past Fleury before the image got to his retina. Tie game, and a sullen Staples Center crowd sounded off.

In overtime, Brown camped out and waited for Tyler Toffoli’s shot, then converted his 19th goal out of pure slickness.

“I thought we played a solid game,” Brown said, “but we couldn’t get bodies in front of the net. When we did we found goals.”

“If you think you’re going to score on the rush against them, you’re not going to do that,” Coach John Stevens said. “They’re going the other way in a hurry. We did a better job working back, generating speed. You can’t get stretched out against them, and they like to squeeze you from in front and back, and their D does a good job of holding gaps. You have to want to forecheck, you have to have the passion to forecheck against them.”

That is how the Ducks shut out Vegas last week. In the three games before that, the Knights scored 16 times. In the two games since that loss, they scored 13 times. So it takes something exceptional, like Quick was Monday.

Stevens had called this a “two-game playoff” Monday morning, and both he and Knights coach Gerard Gallant treated it accordingly. The Kings shuffled their lines all night. Stevens said Nate Thompson played all three forward positions during the game. Having Carter back, and the options therein, was big.

Plus, James Neal left the game in the second period and Vegas had to start shuffling, too. But the Knights’ lines are so even that matchups become tricky.

“I loved the way we played,” Gallant said. “They get a break on the first goal and they scored late. I liked everything we did tonight. A loss like that is going to happen, but we got one point and they got two.”

The win gives the Kings 73 points and lets them overtake Calgary for a wild-card spot. That, like everything else in hockey and life, is day-to-day. But with their roster settled for a six-week drag race, the Kings finally learned what it takes to beat Vegas. Actually they knew what it took, but now Vegas knows the Kings have it.

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Tyler Seguin’s goal in third lifts Stars past Kings

  • Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick makes a glove save during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick makes a glove save during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder, left, of Germany, and Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov, of Russia, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder, left, of Germany, and Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov, of Russia, battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings center Nate Thompson, left, and Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn skate behind the net during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings center Nate Thompson, left, and Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn skate behind the net during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stops a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stops a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, right, stops a shot by Dallas Stars center Radek Faksa, left, of the Czech Republic, as defenseman Christian Folin, of Sweden, helps Quick during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, right, stops a shot by Dallas Stars center Radek Faksa, left, of the Czech Republic, as defenseman Christian Folin, of Sweden, helps Quick during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick sprays his face with water before the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick sprays his face with water before the team’s NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, right, slides into the boards as he goes after the puck along with Dallas Stars defenseman Greg Pateryn during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, right, slides into the boards as he goes after the puck along with Dallas Stars defenseman Greg Pateryn during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder, right, of Germany, passes the puck as Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, of Sweden, trails during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder, right, of Germany, passes the puck as Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, of Sweden, trails during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin, right, celebrates his goal with defenseman Greg Pateryn during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin, right, celebrates his goal with defenseman Greg Pateryn during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, left, dives to make a save as Dallas Stars center Devin Shore tries to score during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, left, dives to make a save as Dallas Stars center Devin Shore tries to score during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Stars won 2-0. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen deflects a shot by Kings right wing Dustin Brown during the third period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. The Kings couldn’t get anything past Lehtonen in a 2-0 loss. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen deflects a shot by Kings right wing Dustin Brown during the third period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. The Kings couldn’t get anything past Lehtonen in a 2-0 loss. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — Fighting for a playoff spot with several other teams, the Kings made two trades over an eight-day span ahead of taking on the Dallas Stars on Thursday at Staples Center.

The trade deadline is Monday, so there might be more moves. But with 22 games left in the regular season and a stretch of 10 of 12 at home, the Kings need to be focused on one thing – making the postseason after not doing so last season.

Things did not go well for the Kings in their first game back after a seven-game trip as Tyler Seguin scored his 30th goal of the season at 11:33 of the third period and Alexander Radulov scored an empty-net goal with time winding down to lift the Stars to a 2-0 victory over the Kings before a sellout crowd of 18,230 at Staples Center.

The Kings (33-23-5, 71 points) had their three-game winning streak snapped and remained two points behind third-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division. Dallas (35-22-4, 74 points) came in having lost two in a row and three of four. The Stars, also battling to make the postseason, moved into third place in the Central Division.

Afterward, Kings forward Anze Kopitar wore the look of defeat on his face. His team had just returned from a long trip that culminated with a big victory Tuesday at Winnipeg. He didn’t buy the notion his team had no legs, even though it was out-shot 13-5 in both the second and third periods after it out-shot the Stars 8-2 in the first.

“No, I don’t think so,” Kopitar said. “I think our legs were there. We just didn’t manage the puck, for whatever reason that was. Obviously, the second period, we spent a lot of time in our zone and it’s tough to defend all the time.

“Quickie was really, really good in the second period, made some huge stops. We just didn’t create enough. We didn’t spend nearly enough time in their zone.”

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 26 shots, making several fine saves to keep his team in the game. But like Kopitar said, the Kings did not have good puck management. That’s why it might have looked like the team was fatigued, defenseman Jake Muzzin said.

“I thought we did a lot of good things,” he said. “Our start was good. Coming off the road is always tough after a long road trip like that. One day off and we’re right back into it. … We played a lot of the (second) period in our own zone, so it’s tiring.

“That’s our puck management I was talking about earlier. We allowed them to play in our zone and it’s hard work playing in your zone.”

Kings coach John Stevens gave Dallas the credit.

“There wasn’t a lot of room out there,” he said. “I thought every puck was contested. Second period they made a big push, probably cost us a little bit, spent a little too much time in our end because we didn’t manage the puck well enough against their checking.

“So not only did we spend a little too much time in their zone, we didn’t generate enough offensively.”

At the morning skate, Stevens was asked his thoughts about the front office trying to do all it can to help the team reach the playoffs with the aforementioned trades.

“I think Blakey and his staff, Blakey and all those guys – including the development staff in there – their efforts have been tremendous,” Stevens said, referring to vice president/general manager Rob Blake. “Not only in trying to help us now, but making sure that they have the eye on the future, too.”

The top three teams in each of the four divisions are guaranteed a playoff spot. There will also be four wild-card spots available, two each in the Western and Eastern conferences. The Kings and Stars are in that mix, too.

The Kings next host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at 7. Then it will be the first game of a back-to-back against the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Monday at Staples Center and Tuesday in Las Vegas.

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Whicker: Kings are beginning to wish Knights would stay in Vegas

  • Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith, left, celebrates a goal by left wing David Perron that got past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to win the game during the overtime period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith, left, celebrates a goal by left wing David Perron that got past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to win the game during the overtime period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, left, celebrates his goal as Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury kneels in front of the goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, left, celebrates his goal as Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury kneels in front of the goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, right, of Slovenia, battles with Vegas Golden Knights left wing Erik Haula, of Finland, during overtime in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, right, of Slovenia, battles with Vegas Golden Knights left wing Erik Haula, of Finland, during overtime in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights left wing David Perron, right, celebrates his overtime goal as Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick watches during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights left wing David Perron, right, celebrates his overtime goal as Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick watches during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights left wing Brendan Leipsic, right, celebrates his goal with right wing Alex Tuch during the third period of an NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights left wing Brendan Leipsic, right, celebrates his goal with right wing Alex Tuch during the third period of an NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights left wing David Perron, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with defenseman Shea Theodore, center, and left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, of France, during the overtime an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights left wing David Perron, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with defenseman Shea Theodore, center, and left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, of France, during the overtime an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith, right, dives for the puck while under pressure from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith, right, dives for the puck while under pressure from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, gives up a goal to Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, gives up a goal to Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defects a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defects a shot during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault, second from left, celebrates his goal with defenseman Jon Merrill, left, and center William Karlsson, second from right, of Sweden, as Kings goalie Jonathan Quick lies on the ice during the second period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault, second from left, celebrates his goal with defenseman Jon Merrill, left, and center William Karlsson, second from right, of Sweden, as Kings goalie Jonathan Quick lies on the ice during the second period of Thursday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault, right, moves the puck past Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault, right, moves the puck past Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stops a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stops a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis, right, celebrates a goal by defenseman Derek Forbort as Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis, right, celebrates a goal by defenseman Derek Forbort as Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick makes a glove-save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick makes a glove-save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — Another late game, another late score, another team wondering how it got outworked by these NHL refugees who encamped this fall  in Las Vegas.

But the Kings said they weren’t surprised and they shouldn’t have been. They were buzzed, 3-2 in overtime, by the busiest swarm in the league.

David Perron’s bullet into the low corner beat Jonathan Quick in overtime and gave the Vegas Golden Knights a three-point lead over Los Angeles in the Pacific Division.

It also made the Knights the first expansion team in league history to win six games in succession.

Even at that, Vegas must have felt it should have won in regulation. The Knights gave the Kings only three shots on goal in the second period and kept them bottled up and frustrated until the shank of the third period, when the home team seemed to remember it hadn’t played since Saturday, and that the visitors had won a game in Anaheim Wednesday night.

Drew Doughty skated through the high slot and took a pass from Jeff Muzzin, then zipped it past Marc-Andre Fleury to tie it 2-2 with 4:33 left. The Kings kept peppering Fleury through the third period and the overtime, with Tanner Pearson and Adrian Kempe getting the best looks, but all trends are short-lived in 3-on-3 play, and Perron took advantage of traffic to push Vegas’ record to 25-9-2.

“The third period is the only period we should like tonight,” Anze Kopitar said. “But you can’t expect to win games with the plays were making before that. It was borderline embarrassing.

“We have to clean it up. I know it’s the first game after a break but we have to be a lot better than that.”

Coach John Stevens pointed the finger at suspect puck management and a lot of “east-west plays,” and didn’t think the Kings particularly deserved the point they got, even though it made their record 22-11-5.

“You’re going to make mistakes in a hockey game,” Stevens said, “but we didn’t play the game the right way. I thought we started chasing the game a little bit.”

The Knights can make you question your execution and effort, basically because their effort stops your execution.

With four roughly equal lines, they simply move their feet into any puck-carrier’s space, and all five of them play the game on a string, never leaving big gaps between forwards and defensemen. Once you get past one guy, there’s a companion  who’s trying to poke away the puck, concentrating on finesse and speed rather than big, showy hits. As they say in Vegas, there’s always another Knight.

Vegas has not lost a game in regulation since Dec. 1. It is 5-0 against the Kings and Ducks. In this particular spree, the Knights have beaten Nashville, Dallas, the Kings and the Ducks on the road and Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh in T-Mobile Arena. In the six-game winning streak they have surrendered only nine goals.

Martin Gaborik put the Kings up 1-0 with a deflection, after Derek Forbort’s point shot.  “We did come out strong in that period,” Stevens said.

But as the Knights have already shown in their two wins in Anaheim, they have no trouble ignoring the scoreboard. They fervently chopped wood in the second period until Jonathan Marchessault, who scored 30 goals for Florida last year, camped out to Quick’s right and banged away three times until the puck got through.

“I think that was our best period of the year,” said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant.

The go-ahead goal came in the  third period when Alex Tuch’s pass through the crease seemed to ricochet off the skates of Kevin Gravel, Kurtis MacDermid and then Quick before it got to Brandon Leipsic, who scored his first goal of the season.

By then the Kings had displayed their league-leading penalty-kill, They snuffed five power plays by Vegas, but it also meant the Kings were shorthanded for 7:20. They even started the third period shorthanded, with Quick drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty that the Kings didn’t even discover until they came back to the rink.

“The PK was probably the only reason we got the point, along with Quickie,” Kopitar said.

“Those are taxing minutes for your top guys when you’re on the kill,” Stevens said, knowing that  Doughty, Kopitar, Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez all logged more than four shorthanded minutes. “Vegas has a good power play. They didn’t score on it, but they used it to build momentum.”

And now the Kings have only one regulation victory since Dec. 5, with a bracing trip to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary upcoming.

“The effort, the desperation, the emotional level has to go way up,” said Kopitar

Words won’t reach that bar,  but the Knights thoughtfully provided an illustration..

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