Leclaire stopped 38 shots for his first NHL shutout to lead the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night. “Pascal stole it for us,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We owe Pascal for that one.”
Nikolai Zherdev and Fredrik Modin scored goals to help the Blue Jackets end a four-game losing skid and extend the Kings’ winless streak to four.
Leclaire was the Blue Jackets’ first pick – and the eighth pick overall – in the 2001 draft. He shared the goaltending job a year ago before Columbus showed its confidence in him by trading Marc Denis to Tampa Bay for Modin and backup goalie Fredrik Norrena on June 30.
“I haven’t had a lot of shutouts in my life (at any level), but the most important thing tonight is that we won,” said Leclaire, who turns 25 in just over a week.
Modin said it was only right that Leclaire not only won but got the shutout.
“I wasn’t aware it was his first one, so congratulations to Passy,” Modin said. “He’s been playing fantastic here in all these games we’ve been playing at the start.”
For the most part, the Kings set the tempo and controlled the puck throughout the game but failed to score on eight power plays. They outshot the Blue Jackets 38-14 – the second-fewest shots Columbus has ever had in a win.
“We dominated the game tonight,” Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said. “When you dominate the game, you’re going to win more than you’re going to lose, for sure. You have to accept the fact that sometimes goaltenders win games for teams. Tonight theirs did.”
Seconds after the Kings’ Anze Kopitar lost the puck on a backhand with a wide-open net in front of him late in the first period, the Blue Jackets broke through.
Rick Nash dug the puck off the short boards and tossed a long pass that found Zherdev skating clear of the defence. Zherdev deked to the forehand side then went to the backhand and chipped the puck high into the net over goalie Dan Cloutier’s right shoulder for his fourth goal.
The Kings were ineffective on seven consecutive chances with a man-advantage from early in the first period through the first two minutes of the third period.
Leclaire also turned aside the Kings during 50 seconds of 5-on-3 midway through the second period. He twice stopped Rob Blake on slap shots over that span.
“We got out of penalty trouble. Our (penalty) kill was awesome and we got some momentum out of that,” Leclaire said.
At the 8:15 mark of the third, Modin carried the puck behind the net and then fed David Vyborny, who passed back to Modin for a one-timer from the right circle. It was Modin’s second goal of the year.
“Hopefully a win like this will get us going,” Gallant said.
The Kings have scored fewer than two goals in seven of their last nine games. They had 11 goals in the first three games, 12 in the nine games since.
“We’ve got to take solace in the fact that we have got to keep our effort at that level,” Crawford said. “For the younger guys, that’s what you have to be concerned about is that they have to continue to realize that that’s the effort level you have got to get to.”
Notes: RW Dan Fritsche returned to the ice for Columbus after missing four games with a shoulder injury. … The Kings are 10-8-1-2 in the series with the Blue Jackets. … Nash had been scoreless in his last four games before assisting on the opening goal. … Columbus had also lost its last two games at Nationwide Arena.