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 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 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)
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)
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.
— 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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