A one-goal lead is seldom safe in the NHL, but given the way things had been going for the Los Angeles Kings, Jeff Carter’s second-period goal stood a pretty good chance.
Despite dominating the shot count for most of the game, the Kings trailed 1-0 after two periods of play, but rallied with two goals in the third to claim a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jackets before 16,090 at Nationwide Arena. Carter opened the scoring late in the second period as Vinny Prospal’s wrist shot from the low-right circle caromed in off Carter’s chest, bringing the building to life with 3:17 left in the second period.
But the Kings, who hadn’t scored in over 130 consecutive minutes of regulation time, were rewarded for their strong play on the road thanks to hard work in front of Curtis Sanford by Dustin Brown. The Los Angeles captain jockeyed for position with Fedor Tyutin just as Davis Drewiske floated a wrist shot from the left point. The puck had eyes and sailed over Sanford’s shoulder, breaking the Kings’ long goalless drought and making it a brand new game.
Less than four minutes later, a prolonged defensive-zone shift for the Blue Jackets led to a turnover below their goal line. Simon Gagne stole the puck and fed Drew Doughty at the center point, whose slap shot was tipped in the slot by Brown for a 2-1 Kings lead.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick didn’t have a heavy workload tonight, but he was rock-solid once Los Angeles got the lead goal. He was called upon to make a big stop on Carter with 1.9 seconds on the clock, as the Columbus center tried to chip a rebound over his glove – but Quick smothered the puck for his 24th save, preserving the Kings’ first win since Dec. 1.
Drewiske’s game-tying goal was not devoid of controversy, as the Blue Jackets felt Brown interfered with Sanford in the crease. Replay showed the Kings captain was in the vicinity of the blue paint, but after a brief discussion among the on-ice officials, the goal was allowed the stand and the Los Angeles bench came to life.
Had the goal been disallowed, it’s easy to wonder where the Kings’ confidence goes from there. But the Blue Jackets got back on their heels and were forced to play several shifts in their defensive zone after the 1-1 marker.
The Blue Jackets scored the first goal of the game for the 16th time this season. The club is now 8-6-2 in those games, while going 3-9-2 when tied after the first period and 7-3-1 when leading after two periods.
Columbus is now 18-20-3 all-time against Los Angeles, including an 11-8-2 mark at Nationwide Arena. The Kings have won four-straight meetings between the clubs and seven of the last eight.
Sanford stopped 39-of-41 shots tonight. The 39 saves are a career high and one more than his previous best of 38 saves (41 shots) set Jan. 25, 2006 at Dallas as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Carter has goals in four-straight games after scoring his seventh of the season tonight. It’s his longest goal streak since a four-game streak Jan. 13-18, 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. He has 7-2-9 the last 11 games after being held to 0-3-3 the first eight games of the season.
Prospal has points in five of the last seven games after recording an assist on Carter’s goal. He has 1-4-5 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous three games. He has points in 19 of 31 games this season and dating back to last season he has 16-31-47 his last 60 games.
With each passing game, the acquisition of Nikita Nikitin looks like highway robbery. Nikitin has points in four of the last seven games after notching a helper on Carter’s goal. He has 1-5-6 during that stretch to push his season totals to 1-10-11 in 23 games. All of his points have come in 16 games since being acquired by Columbus from St. Louis.
vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com