KINGS (31-23-12) at BLUE JACKETS (21-38-7)
TV: PRIME (HD), FS-O (HD)
Los Angeles 5-4-1; Columbus 5-4-1
Fourth and final meeting of the season. The first three matchups were decided by a single goal, with the Kings taking two of them. Drew Doughty
's buzzer-beater gave Los Angeles a 3-2 win in Columbus and provided for a controversial finish on Feb. 1, as replays showed the game clock pausing briefly in the final seconds before Doughty's shot entered the net with :00.4 left showing.
Those who said there was too much offensive talent present on the Los Angeles roster for the Kings' goal-scoring woes to last the entire season have been proven right over the course of their current three-game winning streak. The Kings have 13 goals, tying their best output over a three-game stretch this season.
Opening up a four-game road trip in Nashville, it was a lesson in stick-to-itiveness for Los Angeles on Tuesday. Three separate times over the first two periods, the Kings established one-goal leads -- twice thanks to Justin Williams
-- only to see the Predators answer back. Finally they built a two-goal cushion early in the third, thanks to Matt Greene
and Trevor Lewis
scoring 1:45 apart, and held on for a 5-4 victory that left them in a three-way tie with the Sharks and Avalanche for eighth in the Western Conference. The Kings are currently the ninth seed, having played one more game than San Jose but two fewer than Colorado.
"We wanted to try to make (Pekka) Rinne work tonight," Williams said of the Vezina Trophy finalist last season, who was pulled following Lewis' goal. "We felt the last few games, we hadn't gotten as many shots to the net as we should've -- whether it be missing the net, getting it blocked, whatever it was … we tried to put as many as we could at him."
Riding a season-high three-game winning streak of its own, Columbus has specialized in keeping the puck out of its own net in shutting out Colorado and sweeping a home-and-home from Phoenix. The Blue Jackets got goals from RJ Umberger
and Jack Johnson
in the first 3:54 of Tuesday's game at Nationwide Arena and Steve Mason
stopped 33 shots in the 3-2 victory. Johnson's goal was his first since being traded to the Jackets by the Kings for Jeff Carter
, and he also had an assist for the second game in a row.
"He was the best player on the ice tonight," Umberger said in the Columbus Dispatch of Johnson. "Every shift, he made something happen."
Kings captain Dustin Brown
has 5 goals and 4 assists during a five-game points streak. Anze Kopitar
has 2 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. Williams has 3 goals and 2 assists over his last four games. … Mason has stopped 101 of 105 shots during the Blue Jackets' three-game winning streak, a .962 save percentage.
Los Angeles forward Simon Gagne
(concussion) is on injured reserve. … Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin
(foot) didn't play in the third period Tuesday after blocking a shot, and is day-to-day. Forward Jared Boll
(foot) is on injured reserve.
Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi
has played in 200 consecutive games. … Johnson's goal made him the 30th player to score for the Blue Jackets this season, adding to a franchise record and the most in the NHL this season.
Mason is staring at a third straight season with a goals-against average north of 3.00 after his Calder Trophy-winning season in 2008-09, but he doesn't turn 24 until May and continues to work toward salvaging his career. That involves plenty of work with Columbus goaltending coach Ian Clark.
"I'm making sure I'm set earlier," Mason said in the Columbus Dispatch. "When you can do that, you're more prepared for the shots. It makes stopping pucks a little bit easier.
"It's always difficult making adjustments to your game. It's one thing to do it in practice. But to actually put it into the game is a little more difficult. But it's working right now, and we're going to stick with it. It's made my game a lot more simple and easier to play."