LaBarbera made 34 saves, Patrick O’Sullivan had his first two-goal game in the NHL and the Kings beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
Anze Kopitar and Ladislav Nagy also scored for the Kings, who have won five of six following a 1-5 start. LaBarbera has allowed only four goals over the last four games while facing 109 total shots.
“I feel really relaxed out there right now, and for me that’s the biggest thing,” LaBarbera said. “If I’m pressing and nervous and my head’s spinning, I get in trouble. But I’m calm, and I’m not worrying about things. And if I just play my position and play big and let the puck hit me, then I’m usually all right.”
Nagy put Los Angeles ahead 2-1 at 12:21 of the second with the teams skating 4-on-4. He got his stick in the way of an attempted clearing pass by defenceman Tom Gilbert in the left corner of the Edmonton zone, caught up with the bouncing puck and sent a short backhander past goalie Dwayne Roloson’s stick.
“Our team has a lot of speed,” O’Sullivan said. “So if we’re able to get in to forecheck and cause some disturbance with our puck movement, we’ve got some offensive guys who can capitalize on those chances. A perfect example was Nags’ goal.”
Kopitar gave the Kings a two-goal lead less than 3½ minutes later, carrying the puck through the right circle and backhanding a centring pass toward the crease that banked in off Roloson’s skate.
O’Sullivan completed the scoring with 3:45 remaining. He fanned on a cross-ice feed from Kyle Calder near the crease, but kept his focus and did a complete spin with the puck before backhanding it into a wide-open net from a nearly impossible angle with Roloson out of position.
“That was basically luck,” O’Sullivan said. “I missed the first opportunity and I was just trying to get it back toward the net. Luckily, it went in. I’ve never done that before – not even in practice.”
The Oilers, who came in an NHL-worst 2-for-40 on the power play, opened the scoring with 3:20 left in the first period while Kings centre Michael Handzus was off for holding Dustin Penner. Jarret Stoll beat LaBarbera with a one-timer from the middle of the left circle after Ales Hemsky made a cross-ice pass from the right boards.
But Edmonton’s lead lasted only 1½ minutes. O’Sullivan chipped the puck past Oilers defenceman Denis Grebeshkov at the left point in the Edmonton zone, bolted the other way and beat Roloson with a 20-foot shapshot that broke off the goalie’s leg pad.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than having an offensive-zone faceoff – and seven seconds later dig the puck out of your own net,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “The margin of error is too fine without self-destructing in those situations.
“We’ve got to elevate our game and start turning these games where we play pretty well and lose into wins.”
The Oilers play at Anaheim Sunday night. It’s their first meeting with the Stanley Cup champion Ducks since luring Penner away from them with a five-year, US$21.25-million offer sheet the Ducks chose not to match. An ugly public spat between Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe and Anaheim general manager Brian Burke ensued because of it, and the rift hasn’t mended.
“In some respects, Brian has tried to make it personal. But I’m not going to comment on that publicly,” Lowe said between periods. “He’s certainly entitled to say what he wants to say. But there’s people in this business who feel that any news is good news for the National Hockey League, and I think Brian subscribes to that theory.”
Lowe, who feels that Burke overreacted when the Oilers grabbed the restricted free agent, doesn’t plan on speaking to Burke during Sunday’s game. In fact, if it were not for Lowe, the Ducks wouldn’t have been able to obtain defenceman Chris Pronger from Edmonton prior to last season – and probably wouldn’t have been able to win the Cup.
“You’ve got to be careful because if you intimate that we’ll never do a trade again, then you’re closing out the prospects of trying to better your organization,” Lowe said. “Clearly, Anaheim’s already made a pretty good one in recent years, in terms of bringing Prongs there. So I think there’s enough people in their organization to do trades so that he and I wouldn’t have to talk.”
Notes: Oilers G Mathieu Garon, who signed with Edmonton as a free agent in July after two seasons with the Kings, has started only two of the Oilers’ first 11 games. … Edmonton is 0-7 when training after two periods.