KINGS (25-14-5) 2, BLUE JACKETS (21-17-7) 1
STAPLES CENTER | LOS ANGELES, CA
Based on the rugged tenor and relentless intensity of tonight's game, it was painstakingly clear how much was at stake for both the Blue Jackets and Kings. Separated by just four points in the standings heading into the game, this was a massive swing game: the Blue Jackets could have closed within two points of the Kings, and on the other hand, Los Angeles had an opportunity to pull back ahead of San Jose for home ice advantage in the West.
And right from the opening face-off, this game was played at a frenetic pace with not much room to operate. It was a textbook playoff game with a few chances on other side, quality goaltending and timely goal-scoring. The difference was a Kyle Clifford tally less than a minute after the Blue Jackets tied the game, giving the Kings a 2-1 win in front of a sold-out crowd at STAPLES Center.
Columbus once again ends the night in sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Detroit and Dallas - each with 47 points and a game in hand on the Jackets. Their record stands at 3-1-0 through four of six games on this road trip and they head north to San Jose with another chance to make up ground on the teams above them on Sunday evening.
After tonight's game, they'll welcome a couple of days off to get back to 100 percent. The energy was mostly adrenaline tonight, as the Jackets played their fifth game in seven nights and worked feverishly to create chances against a stingy Los Angeles defense. Dalton Prout's first NHL goal - a snappy wrist shot through traffic - tied the game in the second period, but Clifford answered quickly with the game-deciding goal.
The Blue Jackets had some good looks in the third period and put a number of quality shifts together in the final 10 minutes in search of the tying goal, but Jonathan Quick held them at bay just long enough.
It's hard to look anywhere else than the two teams trading crucial goals in the second period, the latter being Clifford's go-ahead tally. His goal marked a wild few minutes with dramatic swings in momentum that settled the score in the hockey game.
- The Jackets played most of the game with a five defenseman rotation, with heavy minutes going to their top-four blue liners. It was a heavy, heavy game (especially in the third period) and there weren't many shifts for the recently-recalled Savard.
- Bad news on the injury front: Calvert suffered a broken finger in the second period and will be out "a while," according to coach Todd Richards. Tough break for a kid who has been such a big part of the Blue Jackets' playoff run.
- Artem Anisimov and Adrian Aucoin both skated today in Los Angeles, Richards said, and they will be re-evaluated this weekend. There's a chance or both players could return to the Blue Jackets' lineup on Sunday in San Jose.
at San Jose Sharks
Sunday, 8 p.m.
HP Pavilion at San Jose | San Jose, Calif.