Game 81; 46-28-7
EDMONTON - They came into Rexall Place having lost three-straight games. While they will finish third in the Pacific no matter what, the Los Angeles Kings were simply looking for a win to boost their momentum swing heading into the playoffs. Despite the end result of their last three games, though, (all away from Staples Center), the silver-and-black still boasted a 22-14-4 mark on the road this season, good enough for eighth-overall. A win in Edmonton would further solidify that.
Before the game, TSN's Bob McKenzie announced that Oilers veteran (and former King) Ryan Smyth was likely set to announce his retirement at season's end. With that, the silver-and-black were hoping to give their former teammate a proper sendoff - and they wasted very little time.
Just 27 seconds into the game, the Kings broke out into a quick offensive play which saw Marian Gaborik feed Justin Williams into the corner of the Edmonton net before finding a streaking Anze Kopitar who made no mistake scoring his second goal in as many games. The goal was also Kopitar's 27th of the year, tying him for the team lead with Jeff Carter.
In his previous eight games, Marian Gaborik has been on fire for Los Angeles scoring once and adding seven assists. With his helper on Kopitar's goal, that made eight assists. But later in the frame, Gaborik continued his torrid streak by scoring his 10th of the year - and fourth as a King - to put the silver-and-black up by a pair, jumping on a Willie Mitchell rebound for the major. Anze Kopitar added his second point of the game with the other assist.
After being outshot 10-4 in the first, the Oilers came out stronger in the second, firing 10 shots against the Kings. But Martin Jones, playing his 19th game of the year, was impressive when he had to be, including a couple of key saves to keep the home team off the scoreboard.
The Kings, on the other hand, registered 15 shots in the second and their lone goal in the frame was a soft one. Marian Gaborik came in just over the blue line to fool netminder Viktor Fasth. It was 3-0 and Gaborik had his second goal and third point on the evening. What a way to keep his hot streak going.
On this night, the only downside to Los Angeles's game was having Marian Gaborik's third goal called back, denying him the hat-trick. But while the feat would have been nice for the newest King, both Gaborik and the Kings will gladly take the win as they enter their regular-season finale against the hated Anaheim Ducks on a high note.
He may not have been too busy but goaltender Martin Jones finished off his rookie campaign in grand fashion, stopping all 17 shots he faced to pick up his fourth shutout on the year. After a record-tying 8-0-0 start, Jones went 3-6-0 entering Thursday's action. That subpar record, however, was no fault of the 24-year-old who came into this contest with a miniscule goals-against average of 1.91 and a .932 save percentage.
Regardless how disappointing the Edmonton Oilers have been this season, this was the type of effort the Los Angeles Kings needed. They got the fast start they needed, kept the pressure going and despite taking their foot off the gas in the latter stages of the game, were nonetheless dominant en route to their record-tying 46th win of the year. The win also matches a career-high for Darryl Sutter, who won 46 with Calgary in 2005-06.
It's onward and upward for the Kings as they return home for one final playoff tune-up, this time against the aforementioned Ducks. What a way to finish the season.