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Kings shut down Avalanche, boost playoff chances

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

LOS ANGELES -- The score might have indicated a close game, but the Los Angeles Kings didn't give the Colorado Avalanche much room in a 3-1 win at Staples Center on Saturday.

Alec Martinez scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period and Los Angeles limited Colorado to 10 shots, matching the single-game low in the NHL this season.

The Kings (39-25-14) and Winnipeg Jets are even for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Each team won Saturday and has 92 points, but Los Angeles owns the first tiebreaker with four more regulation/overtime wins. The Kings also remained one point behind the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division.

This was the type of shutdown game the Kings needed to get into the postseason.

"[It was] very important because you want to try push them out of a game beforehand, and for us, doing a solid job in every area and not giving them a lot of offensive opportunity or opportunity on the power play [was key]," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We were able to control the game for long stretches, which was also important, because I think that kind of disheartens the players and the opposition."

The Avalanche (36-31-12) were eliminated from playoff contention before the game when Winnipeg defeated the Vancouver Canucks. That was tough to swallow for a team that won the Central Division with 112 points last season.

"There were games we lost we couldn't afford losing and that's what I mean by shooting ourselves in the foot, so [this] definitely stings and it's a feeling you just don't like as a hockey player," captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We play for one reason, and that's to win. And when you realize you don't have a chance to go to the dance anymore, it's certainly tough."

Martinez broke a 1-1 tie at 10:09 of the second when he scored on a shot from the right circle that went in and out of the net so fast that he briefly celebrated before shooting the puck into the net again. Jeff Carter threw the puck on net and it bounced out to a pinching Martinez, who scored his first goal since Jan. 17. He missed 19 games during that span with a concussion.

"I thought the first one went in, but I looked at the ref and he was shaking his head," Martinez said. "I just tried to put it again for good measure, I guess."

The Kings play their next three games in Western Canada, and Martinez said the road trip is the kind of challenge they're comfortable attacking.

"We know what's at hand and a lot of us have been through this this or a similar situation before, so you can tap into that experience, having gone through it," Martinez said. "But I think that every season kind of has its own story and it's a little unique. Obviously this is really, really down to crunch time, but I'm confident in the group here. We all know we can do it."

Marian Gaborik scored an insurance goal on a wrist shot that beat Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov from the top of the left circle with 1:56 left in regulation.

Carter has 10 goals and 14 assists in his past 17 games. Gaborik has nine goals and four assists in his past 15 games.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made nine saves, allowing only a goal by Ryan O'Reilly 1:12 into the second period. The 10 shots allowed equaled the Kings' franchise record from Jan.11, 1994, against the San Jose Sharks for fewest by an opponent.

Before Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres were the only team in the League that had been limited to as few as 10 shots in a game. It happened twice; in a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 28 and in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Feb. 8.

The Kings outshot the Avalanche 19-7 through 40 minutes after Colorado put two shots on goal in the final seconds of the second period.

Colorado coach Patrick Roy, whose team won 4-2 Friday at the Anaheim Ducks, cast some doubts on the accuracy of the shot count. Despite the loss, he was happy with the way his team defended; the Avalanche limited Los Angeles to 26 shots.

"I guess every rink has their own way to count the number of shots," Roy said of his team's low total. "To me, it's more how many shots we gave to them. [It was] a back-to-back game. They were waiting for us. They're a desperate team. I thought we defended ourselves very well, and that's what I was looking more tonight than the scoring chances."

Roy acknowledged it was difficult to prepare his players for a game knowing they were eliminated. He pointed to Colorado's 462 man-games lost to injury, second-most in the NHL, as a reason for this season's slide.

"Right now we're probably going to have record year for the Avalanche with the number of injuries just to show you how effected we've been by those," Roy said.

Dwight King opened the scoring when he put home Carter's rebound at 13:56 of the first period. O'Reilly tied it 72 seconds into the middle period when he knocked in a loose puck after Quick could not glove Landeskog's shot.

There was only one penalty called; Kings forward Justin Williams was whistled for slashing 4:31 into the game.

The Kings won their 24th home game, two shy of the franchise single-season record.

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