LOS ANGELES – Jason LaBarbera started out with practically nothing to do, facing one shot during the first 11 minutes. He got plenty of work later on.
LaBarbera finished with a career-high 48 saves after getting staked to a five-goal lead, and Dustin Brown scored twice on power plays to help the Los Angeles Kings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Thursday night. LaBarbera stopped 18 of 19 shots in the second period and 24 of 25 in the third
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a little tired right now,” LaBarbera said with a weary grin. “It was kind of funny how the game went. In the first period, I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ and then they ended up with 50 – which is kind of interesting. But it’s fun to play in a game like that because it makes you battle and play that much harder.”
The Leafs, who came in averaging 30.8 shots on goal, were left completely bewildered and beside themselves with frustration. Last Saturday at Toronto, they took 56 shots at Philadelphia’s Antero Nittymaki and still lost 3-2. Mats Sundin, who scored on two of his eight shots against the Flyers, came up empty against LaBarbera despite putting a season-high 11 shots on net.
“We’re shooting pucks,” centre Alex Steen said. “That Philly game, I thought we were shooting a lot from the perimeter and weren’t getting enough bodies in front of the net. Tonight we did, but we still couldn’t find a way to get it by their goalie.”
The Maple Leafs made their first visit to Staples Center since the NHL instituted a shootout format to decide the outcome of games that were tied after overtime. The last time they played the Kings on the road was Nov. 13, 2003, when the teams played to a 4-4 draw.
Nik Antropov and Darcy Tucker scored for the Leafs, who have been outscored 19-6 during their four-game losing streak. They have been held to fewer than three goals 10 time in their last 12 games, and are 2-8-2 during that stretch.
“It’s a frustrating time, but we can’t get too down on ourselves or irritated or frustrated,” Steen said. “We need to keep our heads up and our spirits up and make sure we turn this around. We’ve still got half a season to go here.”
Alexander Frolov and Rob Blake each had a goal and an assist and Kyle Calder also scored for the Kings, who had lost 11 of their previous 14 games and were coming off a 7-0 defeat to Nashville – their worst home loss since March 21, 2001.
“Obviously, we were pretty embarrassed by the loss the other night, but we swept that aside and got ready for tonight,” LaBarbera said. “We knew we had to come out with a good start, and we did.”
Los Angeles cashed in on both power-play opportunities in the first period, building a 4-0 lead just before intermission at the expense of goalie Andrew Raycroft. Raycroft faced the Kings for the first time since Jan. 12, 2006, when they beat him 6-0 at Boston with a hat trick by Frolov that included a penalty shot.
Calder opened the scoring at the 2:44 mark, less than a minute after teammate Jaroslav Modry hit the right post with a screened wrist shot from the left point.
Brown increased the margin to 2-0 at 13:52 on a rebound after Tomas Kaberle was sent off for holding Brown. The Kings scored again when Frolov shook off a check from Hal Gill behind the net, carried the puck out in front and did a complete spin before beating Raycroft between the pads with a 15-foot wrist shot at 17:22 of the period.
Brown, who leads Los Angeles with 22 goals, made it 4-0 on another rebound with just 54 seconds left in the first while Andy Wozniewski was serving a delay-of-game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass.
“A lot of my goals are just like the ones tonight – being in front of the net,” Brown said. “It’s a matter of paying the price and being in the dirty areas to get the dirty goals. Experience and confidence helps. I mean, you can almost read where the puck is going to be.”
Toronto coach Paul Maurice didn’t want goalie Vesa Toskala to play on back-to-back nights after losing 5-0 at Anaheim in his first game back from a groin injury, but had no choice to use him because of Raycroft’s poor outing. Blake made it 5-0, beating Toskala high to the glove side with a 25-foot slap shot from the right circle at 6:41 of the second period.
Notes: This is the first season since 2003-04 that all six Canadian teams will play at Staples Center. “O Canada” had been played or performed before Kings home games 22 times since the Maple Leafs’ last visit. … Seven of the previous eight meetings between the teams have been at Toronto. The Maple Leafs haven’t won at game at Los Angeles since Mar 12, 1998 at the Forum. … Anze Kopitar, whose assist on Brown’s first goal was his 23rd point in 25 games, was selected Thursday as a reserve for the Western Conference all-star team. Kopitar is the sixth centre in the Kings’ 40-year-year history to make the all-star team, and the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1996. The others were Eddie Joyal, Butch Goring, Marcel Dionne and Bernie Nicholls. Goring was picked as a replacement for injured LW Charlie Simmer in 1980.