LOS ANGELES –
This season has become so gloomy at times for the Columbus Blue Jackets
that they must look hard to find those slivers of light.
On a Saturday afternoon in sunny Southern California, Curtis Sanford
stole the spotlight from the Darryl Sutter era.
Sanford recorded his sixth career shutout and Grant Clitsome
scored in the second period as Columbus put the first dent in Sutter's tenure with a 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings
at Staples Center.
It was the first regulation loss for the Kings in nine games (5-1-3) under Sutter. Columbus won for only the second time in 10 games.
"The big thing was just getting the win," Sanford said. "Shutouts are great, but we've got a big hill to climb. Whenever we can get wins, it's huge."
Sanford made 31 saves in a special-teams match in which the Kings went 0-for-8 on the power play, including a 6-on-4 advantage in the final 1:25, and the Blue Jackets 0-for-6. Los Angeles extended its penalty killing streak to 34, but again its offense sputtered.
Sanford stopped 10 shots during four minutes of an L.A. power play to start the third and swallowed up a chance by Colin Fraser
midway through the period.
Sanford was making back-to-back starts for the first time this season. He made 37 saves on Thursday in a 2-1 loss to San Jose.
"It's definitely about getting into a groove again," Sanford said. "The more you play the more comfortable you feel in there obviously. I had to deal with some health issues. I'm feeling a lot better now. It's definitely nice to be in there again."
A free agent signing last summer, Sanford missed 11 games because of a groin injury.
"It's hard to think about bright spots right now," R.J. Umberger
said. "A lot of us are frustrated this year and disappointed. (But) he's a guy that's taken advantage of every opportunity and been a bright spot for our team and it's good to see him healthy again and part of our team."
Sanford overshadowed the Sutter subplot. Despite his great start, Sutter has been unable to awaken the Kings' power play as L.A. continues to waste quality goaltending by Jonathan Quick
, who stopped 17 of 18 shots and suffered his 11th loss.
"We don't talk about him enough," Anze Kopitar
said. "He has given us chances every single game and that's all you could ask for from your goaltender. At home, if he gives up one, we should be able to win the game and obviously score more than one goal. It shouldn't be a problem, but it is a problem right now so we have to fix it."
The Kings couldn't crack Sanford and Columbus' 29th-ranked penalty killing unit during a four-minute power play to start the third period.
Usually disciplined-checking center Samuel Pahlsson
committed an egregious double-double at the 20-minute mark of the second when he tripped Andrei Loktionov
in the Columbus offensive zone and, during the delayed penalty, cross-checked Justin Williams
near the red line.
L.A. had a 38-second two-man advantage early in the third because Marc Methot
's slashing penalty tacked on to Pahlsson's penalty, but Sanford and Columbus quashed it.
"They just got to keep banging away," Sutter said. "It isn't about being fancy. Just keep trying to score goals. I think we could still do better with kids from the point, especially Johnnie (Jack Johnson). Kopi can shoot more. Our net presence has to be square with the goalie more."
Sutter was quite aware the L.A. fell to 0-3 in afternoon games this season. Asked about his team responding to their first regulation loss on Monday, he said, "We responded. It's not about the next game. We did a good job. The story coming in was that this team hasn't played well in afternoon game and we had a good start.
"I'm not going to question any of those things in terms of next game. We'll be ready."
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead fittingly only six seconds after their fourth power play expired in the second period.
Derek Brassard delivered a nice pass to Clitsome on the left side and Clitsome one-timed it home. Quick nearly got to it with his blocker. It was Clitsome's first goal since his two-goal game Nov. 10, and Sanford made it stand up with a 14-save third period.
"We kind of had the idea that they were just going to get the puck at the top and just pound away," Sanford said. "They got great d-man with really good shots and obviously good net presence with Dustin Brown
, and a lot of creativity with (Mike) Richards and Kopitar. We knew we had our hands full. They were kind of struggling. When they have that firepower, they can come at any time."
was scratched because of an upper-body injury that Sutter revealed to be a sore back that Penner has played through.
"When did it happen? About a week back," Sutter said. "He came in and he could hardly walk."
Ryan Russell made his NHL debut and started on a line with Derek Dorsett
and Pahlsson. Russell was an emergency recall after Columbus lost Mark Letestu
to a broken hand on Thursday.