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Jones ties best in-season career start with Kings' win

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- The efficiency Martin Jones and the Los Angeles Kings have displayed has become so predictable it's left them with few words to explain it.

Anze Kopitar certainly didn't know what to make of it after Jones stopped all three shootout attempts in a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon to improve to 8-0-0 to start his NHL career. Jones, who beat the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout in his NHL debut, has stopped all 12 shootout attempts he has faced.

"I don't know what to say, to be honest with you," Kopitar said. "You get a couple [goals], and it's pretty much a done deal. He's been great. I don't know how many times I have said this before: He's giving us a chance and that's all you really want."

Kopitar snapped a shot past Semyon Varlamov in the second round of the tiebreaker, and Jones sealed it with a stop on Ryan O'Reilly. The rookie goalie matched Bob Froese's NHL-record 8-0-0 start to a career in one season, set in 1982-83. The record for consecutive winning decisions to start a career is nine by Ray Emery, spread from 2002-03 to 2005-06.

Jones wasn't aware of the record and again spoke about building off the success. Los Angeles has been doing that for some time; it's 14-2-3 since goalie Jonathan Quick went out with a groin injury. But this wasn't a typical third-period lockdown victory by the Kings, who blew a 2-0 lead.

The Kings' stellar penalty-killing unit allowed two power-play goals for the first time since Nov. 2. The last was a beauty; O'Reilly roofed a shot over Jones' right shoulder to finish a give-and-go with Matt Duchene and tie it 2-2 with 9:33 left in regulation. Mike Richards was in the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck.

Colorado otherwise could barely penetrate the Los Angeles defense until it pulled to 2-1 late in the second period on a power-play goal by defenseman Erik Johnson. Duchene spun out of the corner and drove to the net before he slid a pass out to Johnson, who one-timed it past Jones' right side at 14:02.

Coming back on an outstanding two-way team pleased Colorado (23-10-2). Excluding shootout goals, Los Angeles (25-8-4) has allowed two goals or fewer in 21 of 22 games and outscored opponents 32-12 the past 10.

"I thought we can get out of this game with our head up," PA Parenteau said. "I thought we played a strong game. It's a really tough building to play in. They're a really good squad.

"Last year we probably would pack it in here, right? That's a big difference between the last year's team and this year's team."

Colorado might have gotten the win if not for Jones, who made a right pad save on Duchene in the first round. Parenteau shot the puck into Jones' pads in the second, as did O'Reilly in the third.

"He's looks good," Parenteau said of Jones. "He's a big guy (6-foot-4). He's quick and I think he's got a great future in the NHL, for sure. He looks really good."

Duchene has four goals and eight assists in six games, and Sutter said he is "arguably the best player in the League right now."

But Colorado's top line of Duchene, O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon was on the ice for each of Los Angeles' regulation goals. The Avalanche had chances earlier but got no shots on a third-period power play, and Paul Stastny had the puck go off his stick on a feed from Gabriel Landeskog in the second period.

Colorado coach Patrick Roy called timeout in the third, and Parenteau said Roy told them to play with more confidence. Roy sounded pleased afterward.

"When you come here you have to be ready," Roy said. "It's a good challenge for our team. I really thought we played well lately, and it was a good challenge this afternoon. I was very proud of our players. They showed a lot of character because down 2-0 in L.A. is not easy."

Jones made 23 saves and was somewhat self-critical, although he said he liked what he saw in front of him. His goals-against average and save percentage dropped to 0.98 and .966, respectively.

"I thought we deserved to win in regulation today," Jones said. "I think we needed one more big save that we didn't get in regulation there, but the guys did a really good job. They came hard on the forecheck. They are tough to break the puck out against, they come really quick. I thought we did a really good job winning battles."

The Kings' top line has been good during this run, and their sustained pressure gave Los Angeles a 1-0 lead in the first period. Jeff Carter put in Drew Doughty's rebound from the slot with 31.3 seconds to go after the Kings pinned the Avalanche in their zone to set up Doughty for a slap shot.

Justin Williams scored his team-leading 12th goal when he batted the puck in midair on a shot that popped out of Varlamov's glove at 5:25 off the second.

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