Game 74; 43-25-6

PITTSBURGH – After back-to-back wins in Philadelphia and Washington, the Los Angeles Kings travel to the Steel City to take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trying to match a franchise record with their eighth-consecutive road win, the Kings started fast, finished better and in between, were phenomenal on the penalty-kill leading to a 3-2 win.

Having lost to the Pens on home ice back on January 30, the Kings were hoping to split the season series and finish their final eastern road trip of the year at a perfect 3-0.
Squaring off against former Manchester Monarchs netminder Jeff Zatkoff, the Kings got the start they were looking for.

In the latter-half of the first, Los Angeles was on their first power play of the evening and they made it count. At the 15:23 mark, Marian Gaborik took a point shot that Jeff Carter deflected in to give the silver-and-black the 1-0 lead. After reviewing the play to see if Carter’s stick was below the cross bar (it was), the goal was made official with Anze Kopitar picking up the second assist.

In the second, the Kings added to their lead as Alec Martinez extended his point-streak to four games, scoring his 10th on a point shot. The insurance marker was assisted by Jarret Stoll and Tyler Toffoli. But the celebration was short-lived.

Just 34 seconds later, Chris Kunitz made a bee-line for the Kings net where he jumped on a loose puck, making no mistake to put the home team on the board. Then, with just under four minutes to go in the second, Taylor Pyatt came streaking down the wing where he shot a snapper that bounced off Martin Jones’s shoulder and trickled into the net. The game was tied on a weird one but the Pens took it. The Kings, however, were not deterred.

Only moments later, the Pens thought they took the lead on a cross-ice pass but Martin Jones reached across to make the miraculous blocker save to keep it tied.

The game remained deadlocked until the early stages of the third. At the 3:51 mark, Drew Doughty blasted a point shot that beat Zatkoff to put the Kings back out in front. The goal was Doughty’s first in 15 games and, scoring only minutes after taking a very undisciplined offensive zone penalty (with his team on the power play), redemption could not have been sweeter for No. 8. But the Penguins were far from done.

Later in the frame, the Pens were pressing and thought they had tied it. After a scramble in front of Jones, the puck was knocked in with the net still on its moorings. But Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter (nephew of head coach Darryl) had shoved Jones into the net, causing the netminder to take the puck with him. After a couple minutes of review, the referees waved the goal off to the dismay of the thousands of Penguin supports at the Consol Energy Center. But the home team regrouped, firing 13 shots on Jones. Unfortunately, none got by (that counted).

With that, the Kings held on for a hard-fought win that, as previously mentioned, matched a franchise record for most consecutive regular-season road wins with eight. The previous mark was set during the 1974-75 season.

If there is one negative to take from this game, it was Los Angeles’s lack of discipline. While some infractions could definitely be debated, the Kings’ penalty-killing unit stood tall and were solid all night long, shutting down the league’s best power play at 0-for-6. Talk about turning a negative into a positive!

As for Dustin Brown, he entered this game facing his Olympic coach Dan Bylsma. These two names were linked late in Sochi as Bylsma benched Brown in the medal round as the Pens’ coach wanted players “who could score a goal.” While the Los Angeles captain certainly isn’t one to hold a grudge, perhaps tonight’s game was a good chance at redemption. Dustin Brown may not have scored but he did assist on the game-winning goal which should account for something. After all, the end result is all Brown and the Kings care about – and it’s the one they wanted.

As for Martin Jones, he was admirable in goal, stopping 35 shots, keeping one of the league’s best offensive clubs at bay.

In addition to Alec Martinez extending his point streak to four games, Drew Doughty snapped out of his goalless drought by netting the game-winner and even Marian Gaborik, who assisted on the game’s first goal, continues to impress with his new club. Overall, a solid night for the Kings. Martin Jones should have had that second goal, the team should stay out of the box more but they persevered in the end and now return home with a five-game winning streak.

That’s certainly not a bad way to enter the weekend.