Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, right, is checked by Los Angeles Kings center Colin Fraser during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Drew Doughty thought the Kings' loss in Detroit four days earlier epitomized much of what went wrong for Los Angeles this season. The Kings' one-sided victory in the rematch showed every reason their $56 million defenceman hopes it can still turn out all right.
Doughty had a goal and his first assist in 19 games, Anze Kopitar had a short-handed goal and an assist, and the Kings stayed in the thick of the playoff chase with a 5-2 victory over the injury-depleted Red Wings on Tuesday night.
Jeff Carter and Justin Williams also had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in the Kings' fifth victory in seven games. Los Angeles emphatically avoided a season sweep by the Red Wings, pulling the Kings into a four-way tie for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles blew a one-goal lead in the final five minutes of a 4-3 loss in Detroit last Friday, making crucial defensive mistakes and failing to score at key moments. The Kings erased it all at home, taking an early lead and dominating special-teams play.
"We were so disappointed in that loss because there was no way we should have given away those two points," Doughty said. "We learned from that game, and we're using that. ... All that we can control is the games that we are winning. Hopefully some other teams lose some for us."
Los Angeles is even with San Jose, Calgary and Colorado in the West with 78 points, although the Avalanche have the most victories, and the Sharks have played the fewest games. Seventh-place Phoenix is one point ahead in a playoff race that is likely to go down to the final week.
Slava Voynov scored a power-play goal in the third period for the Kings, and Carter added an empty-net goal from the Los Angeles blue line in the final minute. Doughty had his first multipoint game since Feb. 1 as the Kings returned from a four-game road trip for their fifth home game since that date.
With just 12 games left, the Kings acknowledge an awareness of their surroundings—in the standings, anyway.
"We have to take care of our own game," said captain Dustin Brown, who had two assists to extend his point streak to nine games. "But with the way it is and the amount of games left, you always scoreboard-watch just because it's so tight. Ultimately, we have to win games for us to have a chance, and that's our main priority. Afterward, you have to worry about what happened around the league."
Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen scored and Jimmy Howard stopped 22 shots in his return from a three-game absence with a groin injury for the fourth-place Red Wings, who played without injured stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk.
Detroit has lost four of five midway through a four-game road trip that includes all three California clubs.
"I've got a laundry list of things that I thought I could have done a lot better out there," said Howard, still third in the NHL with 33 victories in 50 games. "It was my first game back in a week and a half, so I've just got to continue to work hard in practice and get the rhythm back out there. I thought the game was extremely fast in front of me, so I'm going to have to find a way to slow it down until I get back to game speed."
Lidstrom watched his eighth straight game from the press box because of an injured ankle, and Datsyuk missed his 10th consecutive game with a knee injury. Todd Bertuzzi also sat out his fourth game with an undisclosed lower body injury.
Detroit's power play foundered again in its stars' absence, going 0 for 4 to extend its scoreless slump to six games. Los Angeles has killed 32 consecutive penalties.
"I don't know how much the power play had to do with anything tonight," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I didn't think we played hard enough. They had a simple plan, getting the puck in, getting on the forecheck and grinding, and I didn't think we had enough resistance. You're not going to win with the approach we had. The other team can't win all the battles."
The Kings controlled play early and took the lead when Williams pushed a rebound underneath Howard less than seven minutes in. Kopitar scored several minutes later, after a Detroit turnover during a power play, putting a slick wrist shot past Howard for his 21st goal.
Los Angeles' Mike Richards appeared to make an artful mid-air deflection of Doughty's shot to snap the former Philadelphia captain's 25-game goal skid in the second period. The goal was upheld by video review, but the officiating crew eventually determined Richards didn't touch the puck, and awarded credit to Doughty during the third period.
NOTES: Both teams' next game is on the road against the Anaheim Ducks. Detroit visits on Wednesday, and the Kings conclude the Freeway Faceoff on Friday. ... Carter has seven points in nine games since being traded to Los Angeles. The Kings have scored 30 goals since his arrival, moving past Minnesota into 29th place in the 30-team NHL in total goals scored. ... Tom Hanks attended the game.