If it weren't for Jonathan Quick, Thursday night's game against the Blue Jackets could have been over just a few minutes into the contest. The Los Angeles Kings held off a furious opening onslaught by the Columbus Blue Jackets and managed to tilt the ice in their favor.
Columbus came out with serious jump that put the Kings back on their heels. The Jackets dominated along the boards and pelted Quick with 7 shots in just 50 seconds. All told, the Jackets outshot the Kings 14-7 in the first frame, but the Kings managed the only first period tally. Although the Kings didn't create a ton of chances, they took advantage of the chances they got.
Matt Greene started off the scoring with a shot from the point through traffic that found its way past Columbus netminder Steve Mason. Mason, who has been snake-bitten of late, didn't find any relief against Los Angeles. The Kings managed just 18 shots in the game, but 4 of them found their way behind Mason.
The second period was all Kings, limiting the Blue Jackets to just 4 shots. Although the Kings had just 8 shots themselves, it was opportunistic offense that made the difference. After up and down play for most of the period, Wayne Simmonds found Ryan Smyth with a stretch pass through the neutral zone. Smyth dropped the puck to Kopitar who dangled to create some space, then put a wrist shot past Mason off the post and in. The goal marked Kopitar's 100th of his NHL career in 289 games played.
The Kings stretched their lead to 3 just four minutes into the third when Smyth did what he does best, drive to the net. Smyth's initial try was sent into the corner where Dustin Brown gathered the puck and sent it back into the crease. Smyth scored his 16th of the season in a play similar to the one Jarret Stoll scored on in Toronto just 2 days earlier.
A little less than five and a half minutes later, Anze Kopitar potted his second on an extended powerplay. Just as the penalty expired, Kopitar put a rebound home over Mason to push the Kings' lead to 4. The Blue Jackets found some life a little more than a minute later as Antoine Vermette scored his 17th of the season. However, the Jackets couldn't get anything else past the stingy Quick, and fell to the Kings 4-1.
The story of the game was Quick's play. Calm, positional, and reactive, Quick stopped many of the Jackets' shots without moving too much. Although Quick's numbers aren't stellar, he lived up to the way he has played all season long, making saves when it counts. The win marked Quick's 29th of the season in 48 games played.
The Jackets outshot the Kings 30-18 in the game. The Kings registered only 3 shots on goal in the 3rd period, 2 of them beat Mason. Each team had 3 powerplay opportunities, the Kings were the only team to convert. The Kings vastly improved their faceoff percentage from their Tuesday night tilt with Toronto, clicking at 49% on Thursday.
Teddy Purcell was scratched late in favor of Scott Parse who did not tally any points and notched 1 shot on goal in just over 12 minutes of ice-time. Jack Johnson left the game late in the 2nd period after a collision with both Jared Boll and teammate Wayne Simmonds. Johnson appeared to have hurt his arm and did not return to play in the 3rd period.
Anze Kopitar once again tallied the lion's share of shots in this contest with 4. R.J. Umberger had 5 shots for Columbus and Kris Russell had 4. Blue Jackets star Rick Nash was held to just 1 shot on goal.
With the victory, the Kings stay in 6th place in the West. Phoenix remained 2 points ahead of the Kings with a shootout victory over the Flames. Los Angeles still has one game at hand on the Desert Dogs. The Kings are just 1 point behind the Colorado Avalanche, a team they have yet to face this season. The Kings and Avalanche square off 4 times from now till the end of the season in a match-up that looks to have huge implications in regard to playoff position.
The Kings face Colorado in both their last game before the Olympic break as well as their last game of the season. Expect those games to be heated, playoff-atmosphere battles.
Calgary gained a loser-point from Phoenix tonight to earn a 1 point advantage on idle Detroit for the final playoff spot in the West. The Western Conference playoff race remains tight with just 10 points separating 4th place Phoenix from 11th place Dallas.
The Kings return to action Saturday in Beantown. They bested the Bruins earlier this month in Los Angeles by a score of 4-3.
A reminder that the Kings Ice Crew will be hosting another viewing party, 4pm at Barney's Beanery in Burbank. I'll be there enjoying the game, come out if you're in the area.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney