PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The playoffs must be coming. The Los Angeles Kings are starting to look like the Los Angeles Kings.
Drew Doughty broke a tie 3:51 into the third period with his ninth goal of the season, and the surging Kings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 Thursday night for their franchise-record tying eighth straight road win.
“To be hitting our stride at this point and beating some very good teams we had to play in the East right now, that’s a confidence booster,” Doughty said.
Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter also scored for Los Angeles, and Martin Jones made 35 saves. The Kings, who have won five straight overall, tied the club road record set from Dec. 18, 1974-Jan. 16, 1975 by earning one-goal victories during a three-game swing through Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh.
“All three teams are in different places in their standings, so if you can get six points you take it,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
The Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it on goals by Chris Kunitz and Taylor Pyatt. Jeff Zatkoff stopped 29 shots but couldn’t get a handle on Doughty’s booming slap shot early in the third.
A potential tying goal by Penguins forward Brandon Sutter midway through the third was waved off due to goaltender interference following an extended scramble around the Kings net. Sutter eventually poked it by Jones while getting cross-checked from behind just before the net came off its moorings.
After a brief conference, the call stood. While that galvanized the Penguins, it didn’t exactly rattle the Kings.
“I didn’t have much of a view, but I just felt the puck under me,” Jones said. “I just honestly saw the replay, but I felt like I got pushed in. It’s the ref’s judgment there, so I’m happy we got the call there.”
Los Angeles escaped by stifling Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play. The Penguins went 0 for 7 with the man advantage as the unit continues to struggle without centre Evgeni Malkin, who is out for at least two weeks with a foot injury.
Pittsburgh is 0-2 without Malkin and has dropped three straight overall. Though the Penguins remain in firm control of the Metropolitan Division, they failed to earn a point, postponing their eighth straight trip to the playoffs.
“We did some good things,” Pittsburgh centre Sidney Crosby said. “It just couldn’t go in. It’s disappointing when you have that many opportunities. It’s not common when you get that many. You want to make sure you try to make them count. We didn’t do that.”
The Kings have spent most of the season muddling in the middle of the loaded Western Conference but are peaking as the post-season nears. They pulled out a 5-4 shootout win in Washington on Tuesday, roaring back from two goals down in the third to earn the victory.
There would be no heroics necessary this time. Despite the series of penalties, the Kings looked every bit the stingy bunch that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and made it to the conference finals last year.
“Our penalty kill was unbelievable,” Jones said. “Everybody who was out there was awesome, blocking shots. That’s a pretty good power play to do it against, so we did a good job all night.”
The Penguins took the day off on Wednesday, cancelling practice after a lacklustre 3-2 loss to St. Louis the day before. Pittsburgh held a brief players-only meeting after the loss, which dropped the team to 6-6-2 since the break.
It was hard to tell whether the rest helped early, as the Kings sprinted to a 2-0 lead.
Carter deflected Marian Gaborik’s slap shot past Zatkoff for his 26th goal of the season 15:23 into the game. The Kings made it 2-0 on a similar play 6:59 into the second as Tyler Toffoli was parked in front of Zatkoff and provided a perfect screen for Martinez’s shot from the point.
Pittsburgh responded 34 seconds later when Kunitz poked in a rebound for his 33rd goal. Pyatt added his fourth of the season to tie it. His knuckling wrist shot hit Jones in the blocker pad and flipped over the goalie’s shoulder and rolled into the net.
No matter, Jones responded with a no-look blocker save on defenceman Matt Niskanen moments later that kept the game tied long enough for Doughty to win it.
NOTES: Penguins C Marcel Goc left in the second period after injuring his left leg while getting checked into the boards behind the Los Angeles net and didn’t return. … The Kings are 33-8-4 when scoring first. … Carter has 13 points in his last 17 games. … The Penguins play at Columbus on Friday. … The Kings begin a three-game homestand on Saturday against Winnipeg.