LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Although the Los Angeles Kings have proved home-ice advantage means absolutely nothing to them in the playoffs, they’re still pushing toward a prime position for their Stanley Cup defence.
Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Quick made 23 saves, and the Kings kept moving forward in the Western Conference race with a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Mike Richards and Slava Voynov also scored for the reigning NHL champions, who have won five of seven to climb back into fourth place in the West.
The Kings took the lead against Edmonton 98 seconds in and never surrendered it, grinding out another methodical victory.
“We’ve always got work to do, but we’re playing solid at home,” said Carter, the NHL’s third-leading goal-scorer. “We’re making it hard on teams, and we made it hard on all their best guys today.”
Last year, the eighth-seeded Kings won the first two games on the road in all four playoff series while steamrolling to the franchise’s first title.
That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t mind an improved seeding this year—and with the NHL’s compacted schedule, Los Angeles can’t afford to stop pushing.
“At this point in the season, you take a peek (at the standings) once in a while,” said Anze Kopitar, who had an assist. “The way it is right now, every time you win a game, you move up, and when you lose, you move back down. … We just have to keep going.”
Los Angeles is eight points behind Pacific Division leader Anaheim, its opponent in Sunday’s Freeway Faceoff. Kings coach Darryl Sutter essentially conceded the Pacific race to the Ducks, although his players might have other ideas.
“When you get off to that type of lead, it’s impossible to make it up, so we just concentrate on us,” Sutter said of the Ducks, who got off to a 22-3-4 start to the season.
Carter scored his 22nd goal and Voynov got his first goal in 17 games, with both scores coming on Los Angeles’ long-struggling power play.
Drew Doughty added an empty-net score, just his second goal of the season, as the Kings improved to 12-1-6 in their past 19 meetings with Edmonton, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.
Quick also performed well in his first victory since March 28. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner is facing a challenge for playing time from backup Jonathan Bernier, who has won nine of his past 10 starts while compiling some of the NHL’s most impressive statistics, capped by a shutout of Minnesota on Thursday.
Magnus Paajarvi scored and Devan Dubnyk stopped 35 shots for the Oilers, who have lost two straight after a five-game winning streak to fall out of playoff position.
“You don’t win the Stanley Cup if you don’t find ways to continually raise your level as you go along, and that’s something we’re learning to do,” Oilers centre Sam Gagner said. “I think guys have figured that out the more they play in these games, but we have an opportunity here. We’ve got 10 games left to fight our way back into it.”
Centre Jerred Smithson made his debut with the Oilers, who acquired the faceoff specialist in a trade with Florida this week. Smithson had stayed in Florida after the trade for the birth of his son Thursday.
The Kings scored on their first shot for the second straight game when Carter collected a turnover and fed the puck to Richards, whose wrist shot beat Dubnyk. Carter then scored during a power play late in the period when captain Dustin Brown’s pass toward the net hit him.
Carter’s 22 goals are third in the NHL and tops in the Western Conference. Los Angeles’ power play had scored in just one of the previous eight games.
“They start playing well at this time of the year,” Dubnyk said of the Kings. “They’re a big team, and they play hard. They consistently bring bodies to the net, they crash and they screen, and they throw pucks to the net. They stick to what they do, and we can certainly learn a lesson from that. Things just continue to get tougher from here on.”
Doughty scored just his second goal in 38 games from his own blue line in the final minute.
NOTES: Carter’s assist on Richards’ opening goal was just his fifth of the season. That’s why the NHL’s third-leading goal-scorer began the day 68th in total points. … Edmonton LW Ryan Jones was scratched for the first time since March 15 to make room in the lineup for Smithson. … Kopitar got accidentally clipped in the face by Brown’s stick in the second period when Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid grabbed Brown and spun him around. Kopitar stayed down for a long moment, but wasn’t hurt. … Kings D Alec Martinez was scratched for the second straight game since Robyn Regehr’s arrival in a trade with Buffalo. Rookie C Tyler Toffoli also was scratched for the second straight game in favour of Colin Fraser.