CALGARY -- In his four-year tenure with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, Martin Jones recorded 57 career wins at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Despite some late heroics from the NHL team he shared the Saddledome with throughout his junior career, Jones chalked up another one and extended the Los Angeles Kings' winning streak to eight games with a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames on Monday.
“I was excited to play here for sure,” Jones said. “I had four great years here. It’s quite a bit different being here and being in this dressing room, but it’s always fun to come to Calgary and obviously play in this building. It’s a totally different animal being here and at this level and in this dressing room, on this side of the ice.
“I just wanted to make sure I stayed focus. I was excited to be here but wanted to make sure I was focused on the task at hand here. We’re going well right now. We just need to make sure we keep getting better here.”
The victory, in which Jones made 24 saves, has Los Angeles one shy of tying the franchise record of nine straight wins established from Jan. 21-Feb. 6, 2010. It's also the second time the Kings have beat the Flames in Calgary during the stretch, with L.A. handing Calgary its only two losses in the past nine games at the Saddledome.
“That's a team that's not going to make it easy on you, but I think if you asked them, they probably didn't play their best game either,” Flames forward Mike Cammalleri said. “No excuse, but we were maybe flatter than we'd like to be, and we needed to find some more energy and more bite to our game earlier than we did.”
Jones holds almost every conceivable goaltending record for the Hitmen, including games played (148), minutes played (8,704), wins (108), shutouts (16) and saves (3374). The North Vancouver native started off his NHL career in a similar fashion, tying a League record with wins in his first eight games in the same season to start his career, a nod he shares with Bob Froese (1982-83).
“He’s used to this place,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “I think he put on a really nice show tonight. He’s been stellar for us. Every time he’s been in the net, he’s been really good for us. Coming down the stretch here, we’re going to need him to play like that. I don’t know how many games he’s going to get. As long as he plays like he did tonight, I think we’ll be fine.”
After Kopitar scored his 20th of the season at 7:01 of the third, the Flames tested Jones.
With Mike Richards in the penalty box for delay of game, the Kings goaltender had his shutout bid ended with 4:31 remaining after Cammalleri’s blast ricocheted off Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and behind Jones.
Brian McGrattan, with his second in as many games, beat Jones with a spinning slap shot with 2:22 remaining to cut Los Angeles' lead to one.
But the Kings, who improved to 21-0-0 when leading after two periods, shut down the Flames with goalie Joni Ortio on the bench in favor of an extra attacker.
“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Jones said. “They’re a good skating team and they forecheck you pretty hard. Give them credit, they didn’t quit right to the end. I thought we did a really good job, especially in that last minute there, not giving up really any chances.”
Los Angeles gave Jones plenty of support early.
On the Kings' first shot of the game, Justin Williams redirected Kopitar's pass behind Ortio for his 17th of the season to take a 1-0 lead at 4:05. After a brief review, the goal stood.
Trevor Lewis extended that lead 10 minutes into the period, deflecting Voynov's point blast over Ortio's blocker to make it 2-0. Seconds before Lewis' goal, his fourth of the season, Flames defenseman Kris Russell inadvertently knocked Ortio's stick out of his hand.
In the dying seconds of the first, Jones denied a shot from a streaking TJ Galiardi, one of eight saves he made in the opening period.
The goaltenders traded big saves in the second.
With Lewis searching for his second of the night, Ortio flashed a quick pad in tight to deny the Kings forward more than three minutes into the period. Jones countered with a blocker save off Paul Byron's wrist shot through traffic at 5:22.
Though shorthanded, the Kings generated the best chance of the period. Breaking in 2-on-1, Tanner Pearson fed Tyler Toffoli for a tap-in, but Ortio slid post to post in full splits to keep the Flames within two.