BOSTON – The Los Angeles Kings proved that it's going to take more than a coaching change to fire up their struggling offense.
They could also use fewer games against goaltenders of Tuukka Rask’s caliber.
Boston’s young goaltender stopped 41 shots, including 20 in the third period, to earn his first shutout of the season and second straight win as the Bruins beat the Kings 3-0 Tuesday at TD Garden in John Stevens' debut as the Kings' interim coach.
“He was good tonight, arguably our best player tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Rask, who won Boston's previous game Saturday night in Columbus with a flawless third-period relief appearance. “He stood tall and they threw a lot of shots at him, certainly not easy shots to stop. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net, screens. I thought he had the quick feet going. He made the saves on close range and was probably our best player. So he got better as the game went on.”
The Kings kicked off their four-game road trip with their fifth straight loss, a streak that's part of a stretch of nine straight games in which they've failed to score more than two goals. L.A.'s inability to generate enough offense to support their solid goaltending -- the Kings have scored the fewest goals per game in the League -- was one of the main reasons they dismissed Terry Murray as coach on Monday and promoted Stevens.
Stevens saw some signs of life in his team’s offense.
“I do see guys making plays,” he said. “I know [Dustin Brown] had a chance in front all alone and [Simon] Gagne and [Dustin] Penner on a two-on-none. There are some good things happening offensively, but the puck’s not going in. That’s hard on offensive players. If you do the right things on offense, and you don’t score, you kind of want to do things differently. We really need to identify the good things that we did do tonight and make sure that we continue to do them.”
The Bruins were able to overcome the absence of their best defenseman Zdeno Chara (leg) and one of their top penalty-killers, Gregory Campbell (foot). Boston extinguished five Los Angeles power plays, and three defenseman logged more than 20 minutes. Dennis Seidenberg led the team with 27:05 of ice time on the back end.
“They did well. I thought, again, we tried to spread the ice [time] out a little bit. Maybe Seids was a little bit on the higher side, but not by a ton -- maybe a couple minutes more than normal, but that’s expected,” Julien said. “We talked about certain guys having to pick up the slack. But I thought overall our D played well, did a good job. Certainly it wasn’t them as much as our team as a whole probably wasn’t as happy with the space we gave them to skate through the neutral zone and the time that they got to make plays. I thought we were a little bit lazy in that regard. That’s two games in a row now we’ve given up 40 shots, and we need to be a little bit better closing, so we’re certainly going to address that before [Wednesday] night.”
Brad Marchand, who hadn’t scored in five December games before the Kings arrived, filled the net twice after Rich Peverley opened the scoring at 6:32 of the first period with a goal on a backdoor cut and setup by Zach Hamill.
In the second period, Marchand rifled a shot from the top of the left circle after a clean Patrice Bergeron faceoff win. The puck glanced off a Kings player’s stick and beat Jonathan Quick (19 saves) for a 2-0 lead at 7:43.
Marchand again benefited from a Bergeron faceoff win – this one a little bit tougher and requiring a battle near the corner – to complete his second two-goal game of the season. After the win of the draw and a pass from Bergeron, Marchand skated across the slot, shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand and flipped a shot past Quick at 5:35 of the third.
The scoring slump had been only part of Marchand’s recent troubles, as he was also fined $2,500 by the league Monday for a slew-footing incident from last week. Marchand, Boston’s resident pest, has battled through other run-ins with the league and even disagreements with his own coach.
“I think that’s something you want to be able to do in this League. You want to show that you can learn from mistakes and different things,” the second-year forward said. “You want to be able to bounce back and show that it doesn’t affect you and doesn’t bother your game. I haven’t been playing my best of late and it’s nice to kind of bounce back here.”
The Kings have three more games on their trip. They might get a permanent coach over the course of the journey or Stevens might remain in his post. Regardless, the players say they have to block everything out and focus on the task of living up to the preseason projections that held them up as one of the best in the West.
“There is a lot of stuff going on, but there is no excuse,” Quick said. “You can’t take stuff like that and call it a distraction, use it as a reason not to win the game. We have guys in this locker room here that they know we could have played better and come up with two points tonight. But we weren’t able to do that. We have a lot of hockey left to play and we are looking forward to getting out there next game.”