Game 30; 19-7-4
LOS ANGELES – On an evening where they honoured Hall-of-Famer Larry Murphy as part of the Legends Night series, the Los Angeles Kings could do no wrong as they shut out the visiting New York Islanders to sweep their series with the boys from Long Island while, in the process, reeling off three-straight wins to kick off the month of December.
Having not played since Tuesday, there was some reluctance regarding the possibility of the Kings being rusty. Early on, said concern may have played a factor but as the game went on, such a worry proved to be unfounded.
In addition to the layoff, there was the mystery of which Los Angeles goaltender would get the start on Saturday. While it is usually known which netminder will start due to which is off the ice first at practice, that wasn’t the case on Saturday morning as both Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones left the ice simultaneously.
When the game started, it was Martin Jones, coming off his first-career win, getting the call. While I thought Ben Scrivens would be back in the net, the decision to start Jones certainly didn’t leave me with any complaints.
While it seemed easy to scoff at an opponent who has struggled as much as the Islanders have this season, it is fair to point out that the Kings haven’t exactly had their way with sub-.500 teams in 2013-14. So far, Los Angeles has lost to the likes of Buffalo, Winnipeg, Nashville and Calgary (twice) while barely beating teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. After the opening period of Saturday night’s tilt, it appeared as if the Kings were continuing with their semi-prevalent trend of lagging against opponents they should (on paper) have their way with.
After a scoreless (and sloppy) first period where they were slightly outshot 7-6, the Kings, sporting their vintage royal blue-and-gold uniforms, woke up in the second.
En route to outshooting the Islanders 10-4 in that middle frame, the home side was able to open the scoring courtesy of Anze Kopitar who snapped his eighth past netminder Kevin Poulin at 12:08 of the period. Alec Martinez helped out with the assist.
While they did enter the third with just a slim lead, the Kings were comfortable and confident despite a lack of offense. But it was just a matter of time before they got some insurance – and that came from the captain himself.
At the 10:37 mark of the third, Mike Richards and Justin Williams were setting up a scoring chance in front of the Isles net when Dustin Brown took the biscuit from behind the net and wrapped around where he beat Poulin for his sixth of the year. It was 2-0 and that was all the Kings would need.
With just 1:04 remaining in regulation, an unselfish Mike Richards approached the empty Islanders net before feeding Tyler Toffoli who potted his seventh to ice it. Drew Doughty picked up the second assist on the goal.
As for Martin Jones, he wasn’t busy on Saturday as he only faced 16 shots. Nonetheless, the 23-year-old was flawless stopping every shot he faced, including a few quality scoring chances, to earn his first-career shutout in just his second game. Just like that, Jones has already equaled Jonathan Quick’s shutout tally this season.
With Anaheim also winning on Saturday, the Kings still remaining three points behind their SoCal rivals. However, as of Sunday morning, Los Angeles moves to within a single point of San Jose for second in the Pacific.
Overall, a great game and an ideal way to play before heading east where they will open said road trip on Tuesday in Montreal against the surging Canadiens.