COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Times and timing have changed for the rapidly improving Columbus Blue Jackets.
Raffi Torres broke a tie with a power-play goal late in the second period and Rick Nash added a short-handed goal on Saturday night to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to their third win in a row, a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
"Timing is everything," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Torres' goal gave us a lift on the power play. Nash's goal gave us some breathing room to play with. A lot of our scoring chances were in the first period. We had some chances we didn't take advantage of and sometimes that can come back to bite you. We needed our goalie tonight and he was big."
Jason Chimera had a goal and Jake Voracek added an empty-netter for Columbus (5-1-0), off to its best start in the franchise's nine years. Last season was the first time the club had a winning record or made the playoffs.
Steve Mason gave up a soft goal early to Dustin Brown but was brilliant in the third period as the Kings pressed. The Blue Jackets killed five penalties and have given up one goal on 24 kills this year.
"These guys are coming in and putting a big effort up and they make my job easier," said Mason, who had 27 saves.
The Blue Jackets have scored more goals (two) when a man down than their NHL-leading penalty kill unit has given up (one).
Last on the power play in the league last season, they have scored with the man advantage in five of their seven games this season.
The Kings have lost three in a row - all on the road.
"I'm not very happy about the game - not very happy," said Los Angeles coach Terry Murray, who was particularly upset with how the Jackets got their first goal. "We need to check better and make better decisions with the puck."
Torres broke a 1-1 tie with 3 minutes left in the second period. His backhand slipped between the pads of goaltender Jonathan Quick after the Blue Jackets had buzzed the net in a scrum that saw three other Columbus players get their sticks on the puck.
"I fanned on it. I was going upstairs," Torres said. "The puck was kind of rolling a little bit so I just wanted to make sure I put whatever I could on it. The puck just popped out to me and I backhanded it."
Since trading for Torres before last season, he has been the Blue Jackets' good-luck charm. They are 13-1-0 in games in which he has scored - the only loss coming at San Jose last week to end a 12-game streak.
"It's nice. Hopefully I can keep that going," Torres said of his game-winner. "It's always good on the stat sheet. At the end of the day, it's not really a big deal. I'm just trying to help the team out."
Nash added a short-handed goal early in the third period, backhanding in a shot between the circles after Sammy Pahlsson had chipped the puck away from a King on a hustle play in the defensive zone. It was the first point in a Columbus uniform for Pahlsson, a shutdown defensive forward who was signed as a free agent last summer.
The Kings broke through on a relatively harmless shot from the high slot, with Brown wiring one that eluded Mason - just as Brown was knocked to the ice.
In the final minute of the period, Chimera came down the left wing on a 2-on-2 with Nash. As he got to the left dot, Chimera's hard shot beat Quick to tie the score. It was the same shot he had scored on earlier this season.
"I was telling the guys that I should go to the NHL and see if I can get a patent on that shot and make some money off it," Chimera said with a laugh.
Notes: The Blue Jackets announced just before the start that they had signed D Kris Russell to a three-year contract extension through the 2012-13 season. ... Nash pushed his points streak to five games and Derick Brassard had an assist for points in the past three games. ... Voracek scored an empty-netter on the power play.