Los Angeles Kings finally scored a goal for interim coach John Stevens. Then they scored another one -- and left Nationwide Arena with their first victory in six games.
Stevens – who replaced Terry Murray on Monday and lost 3-0 in Boston on Tuesday – saw his Kings finally break their scoreless streak by putting two goals past Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford in the third period to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Thursday night.
"The status doesn't change; it still feels like a win," said Stevens, who was promoted from assistant when Murray was fired after a 9-11-3 stretch. "It was just a big win for our team considering this slide we've been on here. The guys played extremely hard tonight."
The win ended a five-game losing skid for Los Angeles (14-13-4), and the breakthrough came from the unlikeliest of sources. Defenseman Davis Drewiske scored his second career goal – and his first since Oct. 6, 2009 – at 4:33 of the third period to jump-start the Kings' slumping offense. Dustin Brown redirected a long shot past Sanford 3:39 later to give Los Angeles the lead for good.
Drewiske collected a feed from Anze Kopitar at the blue line and launched a shot towards the crease, where Brown was trying to screen Sanford. The puck floated past an inhibited Sanford, who quickly protested the goal -- but after a video review, it stood.
"It's funny how the game of hockey works, really," Brown said. "We've struggled to score goals and it's a result of people not being around the net. We get two dirty, greasy goals tonight and win a game. We need more guys around the net consistently and when you start to get that, other goals start to go in - nice goals."
Jackets coach Scott Arniel took issue with the tying goal.
"It wasn't so much when the puck went into the net, it was just prior to that because (Sanford) got bumped first and knocked off balance and he was sideways," Arniel said. "Then the puck obviously went in as he was trying to get himself square."
Said Sanford: "All I know is I wasn’t in position to make the save, because I was bumped."
Brown put the Kings ahead to stay then scored at 8:12 to give the Kings the win. Another long blast from the point, this time by Drew Doughty, was headed to the right of the crease until Brown intervened at the last instant and deflected the puck past Sanford at 8:12.
Jonathan Quick finished with 24 saves to win for the first time in four outings, as Los Angeles set the pace with 17 shots in the first and controlled most of the play from there on.
"The fact that they came out the way they did and found a way to win a hockey game was a really good sign of the guys' perseverance that they had to get the job done," Stevens said. "I thought it was terrific."
Columbus (9-18-4) scored just once for the second straight game, but a season-high 39 saves by Sanford gave the Jackets a chance to win.
"He certainly saw a lot of pucks – a lot of rubber," Arniel said. "When you get goaltending like that, you’ve got to find a way to turn that one-goal lead into two."
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission when Jeff Carter scored his seventh of the season late in the middle period. After a flurry around the Kings' net, the puck came to Vinny Prospal at the right dot. Prospal ripped a chest-high wrister that Carter barely got a piece of, deflecting the puck past Quick's left shoulder at 16:43.
It wasn't enough.
"I wish I would know the answer why we came out with the effort like that. We didn’t get hurt for two periods, but then we got hurt at the most important time of the game," Prospal said. "It was not just about defense, it is about the whole game, every aspect – getting pucks in the zone, being able to sustain some kind of zone time in their defensive zone -- make the skill guys on their team play defense."