LOS ANGELES - Jason LaBarbera spent considerable time at the end of the Los Angeles Kings bench last month, playing behind Erik Ersberg and preparing himself for another chance.
LaBarbera posted his fourth NHL shutout Saturday night, making 14 of his 23 saves in the second period to lift the Kings to a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"LaBarbs keeps himself ready," coach Terry Murray said. "He's a hardworking guy. He's got a lot of pride in his game, and he came out tonight and showed great things.
"He was a real asset tonight."
LaBarbera's other shutout this season was on Oct. 24 at St. Louis, when he faced 15 shots in a 4-0 victory. But he gave up 13 goals over his next four games, all of them Kings losses. Ersberg started the next nine contests and was benched in the ninth before LaBarbera beat Edmonton 2-1.
"I didn't play for a while, so maybe I got a different point of view, I guess," said LaBarbera, who relieved Ersberg Friday after one period and stopped 30 of 31 Edmonton shots before the Kings lost in a shootout.
"The thing was, I didn't feel like I was playing that bad before. I just wasn't getting the results," he said. "The biggest thing was just keeping my head above water and not getting too down on myself. Now it seems like it's turning the corner and pucks are bouncing my way."
Over the last two seasons, Murray's predecessor, Marc Crawford, used 11 goalies - including LaBarbera and Ersberg.
"I don't think LaBarbs had to re-establish himself," Murray said. "I just think at the time, Ersberg had moved pretty confidently in the right direction with his game and was getting some wins. It's a hard thing, playing goal in this league.
"Ersberg had played only 14 games in this league coming into this season, and to have expectations of him clearly grabbing the ball and running with it the rest of the year were just not possible."
Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Calder scored 4:04 apart for Los Angeles in the second period. The Blue Jackets, who beat the Kings in both road games last season, were shut out for the first time despite outshooting them 23-18.
"The Kings bogged us down pretty good," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I don't think we created a lot of scoring chances. We were a step slow all night and everywhere."
Anze Kopitar assisted on Calder's goal and scored into an empty net with 13 seconds to play, helping the Kings snap a three-game losing streak. The Blue Jackets' loss dropped them to 11-12-3, one point behind the Kings in the Western Conference standings.
"It's been such a roller coaster," Columbus defenceman Mike Commodore said. "We play a couple of games where we lose like this, and then we win a couple. It's pretty taxing, but it's part of growing as a team."
The Blue Jackets were 0-for-4 on the power play, making them 6-for-100 over their last 20 games and a league-worst 12-for-125 overall.
"Finishing strong was a huge focus after the game yesterday," Murray said. "We talked about it this morning in our team meeting, again this evening in our pre-game, and we brought it up again at the end of the second period - to stay strong, stay positive and keep going after things hard and aggressively."
Simmonds opened the scoring at 2:39 of the second, beating Steve Mason to the glove side with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle. Calder made it 2-0 at 12:29 of the period, redirecting Kyle Quincey's slapshot from the left point after Kopitar won a faceoff from R.J. Umberger.
"We know that Columbus has one of the top scorers in the game in Rick Nash, and they're a big team," Murray said. "They come at you with a lot of speed and their defencemen are very active."
The Kings, who came in allowing a league-low 25.7 shots per game, outshot Columbus 3-2 during the first period.
"That might have been one of the most boring NHL periods I've ever seen. There was nothing going on," LaBarbera said. "Both teams were kind of feeling each other out, but that's part of being a goalie."
Patrick O'Sullivan of the Kings was awarded a penalty shot at 6:43 of the second period, when Commodore hooked him from behind, forcing O'Sullivan to lose control of the puck as he got to the crease. The third-year centre flipped the puck over the crossbar on the penalty shot.
Notes: Columbus' next game is Sunday at Anaheim. This is the ninth time the Blue Jackets' will be playing the Kings and Ducks in back-to-back road games. They have never swept both games. ... Columbus RW Jared Boll and Los Angeles LW Raitis Ivanans, who got into a second-period fight, are among 15 NHL forwards who have played 20 games this season without scoring a goal. Boll's drought is 45 games, and Ivanans has played 27 since his last goal.