LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Columbus Blue Jackets refused to be lulled into a false sense of security by the Los Angeles Kings’ lengthy offensive slump.
They did everything they could to help goalie Curtis Sanford, and were especially stubborn when it came to killing penalties. Sanford made 31 saves for his sixth career shutout, defenceman Grant Clitsome ended a 22-game goal drought, and the Blue Jackets beat the Kings 1-0 on Saturday for their first shutout of the season.
“We knew they were kind of struggling. But when you have that firepower, it can come at any time,” Sanford said. “We kind of had the idea that they were going to try to get the puck to the top and just pound away.”
The second period ended with Columbus’ Samuel Pahlsson getting delayed minor penalties for tripping and cross-checking, giving the Kings a four-minute power play to start the third. A slashing penalty to Marc Methot gave them a two-man advantage for 38 seconds, but they came up empty and finished a season-worst 0-for-8 with the man advantage.
“Our penalty-kill has been doing better of late and we feel like we’re getting better efforts,” forward R.J. Umberger said. “We’re disrupting teams down in their end a lot more. Today we were putting a lot of pressure on them and blocking a lot of shots, but Sanford was our best penalty killer.”
Sanford started back-to-back games for the first time since a 12-game stretch from Nov. 17 through Dec. 10, when coach Scott Arniel benched Steve Mason. The shutout was Sanford’s first since Dec. 28, 2008 against Ottawa while playing for Vancouver.
“It was definitely nice to be in there again right away,” Sanford said. “It’s all about getting back into a groove. I had to deal with some health issues, but I’m feeling a lot better now.”
The Blue Jackets will play Anaheim on Sunday night, trying to overtake the Ducks in the race to avoid the league’s worst overall record.
“It would be a step in the right direction. We finally get a chance to leapfrog somebody,” Umberger said. “To go out and win two in a row on the road. That’s something we haven’t done in a while, so tomorrow will be a big challenge for us.”
The Kings’ Jonathan Quick stopped 17 shots for Los Angeles, which has scored a league-low 90 goals. The Kings were held to fewer than three in regulation for the 19th time in 21 games and shut out for the fifth time this season.
“We don’t talk about him enough,” Kopitar said of Quick. “He has given us chances every single game and that’s all you could ask for from your goaltender. If he gives up one, we should be able to score more than one goal and win the game—especially at home.”
Despite averaging 34.6 shots on net in their last 16 contests, the Kings have averaged only 1.6 goals during that stretch and are 3 for 66 on the power play. The loss was their first in regulation since Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as coach (5-1-3).
“We’re pressing. You could tell later on in the game that we’re pressing,” centre Jarret Stoll said. “They were blocking everything. Probably three-quarters of our shots didn’t even make it to the net, but you’ve got to find different ways.”
Columbus had only eight shots on net before Clitsome scored at 11:25 of the second period for his fourth goal, the most among Blue Jackets defencemen. He got a cross-ice pass in the left circle from Derick Brassard and beat Quick to the stick side with a one-timer from 25 feet, just six seconds after the Kings killed off a hooking penalty against Kyle Clifford.
NOTES: Clitsome’s goal was his first since Nov. 10, when he scored twice in a 6-3 home loss to Chicago. … Kings LW Dustin Penner, who has only two goals in his first 30 games, did not play due to an upper body injury. Los Angeles is 7-4-1 when he’s been out of the lineup. … Columbus LW Ryan Russell made his NHL debut, starting on a checking line with Pahlsson and RW Derek Dorsett, and was also used on the penalty kill.