After 38 minutes, Kyle Clifford broke through. - USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles scores late in the second and early in the third, and the Kings hold off a late charge by the Blue Jackets for their first regulation home victory of the season. Clifford, Scuderi, and Bernier earn the three stars.
In a game that pitted the Western Conference's two bottom teams, it would have been fair not to expect much excitement. Turns out there was about five minutes' worth, as the Kings scored two goals in quick succession, and Columbus only got sustained pressure in the game's final stretch. Though the Blue Jackets made it interesting, it wasn't enough to overcome a suffocating defensive effort by Los Angeles, and the Kings won 2-1 at Staples Center.
We could probably just skip the first half of the game, actually. The first period flew by, with only a couple LA power plays to keep the fans interested. Dustin Penner had a late chance when Jeff Carter beat the defense and passed the puck through a sliding defenseman, but Penner was crossed up and couldn't put the puck into an open net. The second period featured three consecutive Kings penalties, but the Blue Jackets could only get one shot on goal. Their best chance was on an absolutely awful line change, when Nick Foligno and Vinny Prospal found themselves on an easy 2-on-0 break. But Rob Scuderi got to Foligno on a desperate backcheck, and he and Jonathan Bernier were able to prevent the Blue Jackets from getting the shot off.
Finally, the end of the period approached, and without warning, the Big Red Dog struck. Kyle Clifford nicked the puck from Nikita Nikitin in the neutral zone and broke into the Columbus zone on a 2-on-1 with Trevor Lewis. Being his aggressive self, Clifford elected to shoot and sent a wrist shot below the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky to put LA ahead with 80 seconds left in the period.
A number of small scuffles had broken out during the game, so the pushing and shoving between Clifford and the Jackets' Jared Boll at end of the second period seemed insignificant. But Clifford successfully goaded Boll into dropping his gloves, and Boll picked up a two-minute penalty. When Fedor Tyutin held back Anze Kopitar on a rush to the net, the Kings had a one-minute 5-on-3 and, for the first time all year, cashed in. It was a fortunate goal, as Mike Richards' centering pass to an oncoming Carter deflected off of Nikitin's skate and over Bobrovsky. But the Kings have been starving for lucky goals this year, so they were taking this one to the bank.
(By the way, the second assist on that goal went to none other than Jonathan Bernier. Might want to leave him in the lineup... he's scoring at a higher rate than half our team.)
Anyway, the Blue Jackets had only mustered eight shots to that point, so it didn't seem like there was anything to be worried about. Prospal hit the post on a 40-foot shot, which was really the only threat until Foligno (making up for the failed 2-on-0) tapped in a goal to break up the shutout with 2:25 left, with an assist going to everyone's favorite defenseman, Jack Johnson. The Blue Jackets were able to swarm the net with Bobrovsky pulled for the final minute, but Bernier made a couple saves and the Kings held on for the win.
So if you're watching the replay, there's a lot you can skip. It was good to see Clifford score again (first goal in ten games), and Richards might just really enjoy playing against Columbus (both goals this season are on the Jackets). Johnson got his fair share of boos upon his return but played better than most of his teammates, and Bernier once again was pretty good despite facing a pretty bad offensive attack. The Kings' defense dominated, and while Columbus might not be the best barometer, our patchwork defense did a good job in limiting the opposing team to 13 shots. We've lost twice this season while allowing just 14 shots, but apparently, 13 means a win! Write that down, Darryl.
In all, the Kings' brief stop at home was a success... now, it gets a bit tougher when they try to get revenge against Chicago. Might need more offense by then.