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Campbell relishing success with Kings after rough road to NHL

Goaltender shut out Canadiens in third straight start in place of injured Quick

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- Jack Campbell was scrambling to shed his goalie gear in the Los Angeles Kings dressing room following a 3-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, stuffing things into an equipment bag as reporters gathered in front of him.

Beside him, Kings backup goalie Peter Budaj was in less of a hurry.

"Take your time," Budaj said. "Enjoy it. You've earned it. You get your first shutout only once."

Three seasons ago, Campbell had been bouncing from the Dallas Stars to their American Hockey League and ECHL affiliates, spinning his goaltending wheels. Now, pressed into duty with Kings No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick out indefinitely with a lower-body injury sustained Oct. 6, the 26-year old was accepting congratulations from teammates after his 40-save shutout at Bell Centre, his first in 10 NHL games spread across six seasons.


[RELATED: Campbell makes 40 saves, Kings shut out Canadiens]


Not a bad way to remember his first career game against the oldest, most storied team in the League, his first shutout having spoiled the party of the Canadiens' 101st NHL home opener.

"It's a pretty sweet building," Campbell said with a grin. "It was pretty cool, opening night. The boys just came out and played great, so a big two points."

The only other time Campbell was in Bell Centre was Feb. 21, 2012, two seasons after the Stars made him the first goalie selected (No. 11) in the 2010 NHL Draft. With a night off from his junior team, Sault. Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League, he watched with Dallas staff members as goalie Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves in a Stars 3-0 shutout. In the Montreal net that game was Carey Price, as he was Thursday, with Budaj on the Canadiens bench as his backup.

During the next four seasons Campbell would play one NHL game for the Stars, a 6-3 loss at the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 20, 2013, in which he allowed six goals on 47 shots.

Campbell reflected Thursday on having been mired in the minors not so long ago, sliding down the Stars depth chart to Texas of the AHL and Idaho of the ECHL before being traded to the Kings for defenseman Nick Ebert on June 25, 2016.

"Those were some low points for my career," Campbell said of being assigned to the ECHL in 2014-15 and 2015-16. "[But] I loved the guys in Idaho, that really turned it around for me. Playing [in] Boise, Neil Graham, my coach there, he really made hockey fun again.

"Once I got traded here, everybody was amazing. The team, the guys, the coaches, the management really changed everything. I'm so happy to be here and happy to help the team win."

Campbell, who was 2-0-2 in five games with the Kings last season and won the backup job during training camp, was making his third straight start Thursday. He made 36 saves in a 4-2 home win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday and 37 saves in a 2-1 loss at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, which was the first game of the Kings' four-game road trip.

There was no hesitation for coach John Stevens to start Campbell against the Canadiens, no matter that Bell Centre is much more familiar to Budaj; it was his home building from 2011-14.

Video: LAK@MTL: Campbell makes 40 save for first NHL SO

"We've been talking about it a lot lately, [Campbell] has been giving us a chance to win," Stevens said. "I thought he was rock solid tonight. A penalty kill early in the hockey game, he gets tested early. I thought he was really seeing the puck well, he was really tracking it well. That stabilizes your team, especially on the road, when a team like Montreal comes hard. He was terrific tonight.

"Jack is playing well, he gives our team confidence. We had him going all the way."

Campbell, who is 2-1-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .966 save percentage this season, was square to the puck all night but was quick to praise his defense for clearing rebounds in front of him.

The closest he came to losing his shutout was 10:59 into the third period, when the NHL Situation Room in Toronto was called twice after defenseman Mike Reilly's shot entered the net following forward Andrew Shaw's contact with Campbell. The goal was waved off, but a call to Toronto determined it was a goal. Stevens challenged the play, and the goal was overturned when it was determined that Shaw had made deliberate contact with Campbell, who was a foot or so outside his crease.

"It was kind of a weird play. … I can't control it, so it was nice that the guy said no goal though. I'll take it," Campbell said with a laugh.

Video: Situation Room: Shaw's goal overturned after review

At the final siren, veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf scooped up the puck for Campbell, who said it would go to his parents for safekeeping.

"We're working on it," the goalie said of what Phaneuf would charge him for the souvenir. "I'm sure I'll take the defense out for a nice dinner at Red Lobster."

Phaneuf knows the energy and the challenges of playing in Montreal, having been in many rivalry games there during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.

"Look at the saves [Campbell] made," Phaneuf said. "He's calm in there, mature. I'm really happy for him because he works extremely hard. Things you might not see in practice -- he really competes, he's on every puck. For him to get the shutout, I'm really happy for him. It's well-deserved. He won the hockey game for us."

The last time the Kings were the visiting team for a Canadiens home opener was Oct. 8, 1975 at the Montreal Forum when Kings icon and former Canadiens goalie Rogie Vachon was lit up in a 9-0 loss.

"Rogie's a legend, his number is retired at our rink," Campbell said. "Everybody has their off nights and their good nights. For me, for my first game in this building, it's really special. But for our team, we needed this. It's a big road trip so we'll take the win."

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