COLUMBUS, Ohio – That was a sigh of relief coming from the Los Angeles Kings’ dressing room.
Dustin Brown scored on a redirect midway through the third period and Jonathan Quick had 24 saves to lead the Kings to a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, ending a five-game skid and giving interim coach John Stevens his first victory.
“It’s a great feeling when you break a losing streak,” centre Anze Kopitar said. “It wasn’t pretty but the effort was definitely there. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how. We got the two points.”
Brown added an assist and Davis Drewiske also scored for the Kings, who fired Terry Murray on Monday. There is wide-spread speculation that general manager Dean Lombardi is close to hiring former San Jose coach and Calgary GM Darryl Sutter as the permanent coach.
Stevens, elevated from assistant, was serving his second game as interim coach. The Kings have not scored more than two goals in any of their last 10 games since Thanksgiving and came in averaging a league-worst 2.17 goals.
“The status doesn’t change; it still feels like a win,” Stevens said. “It was just a big win for our team considering this slide we’ve been on here. The guys played extremely hard tonight.”
After a 5-1-1 start to the season, the Kings have gone 9-12-3.
Down a goal heading into the final period, the Kings’ slumbering offence may have gotten some help.
At 4:33 of the third, Drewiske—who had yet to score a goal this season—tossed up a shot from the blue-line near the left boards. As it sailed toward goalie Curtis Sanford, Brown had one skate in the crease with defenceman Fedor Tyutin nearby. The puck floated into the net high on Sanford’s glove side. He quickly protested that Brown had interfered, but a review ruled it was a goal.
“It’s funny how the game of hockey works, really,” Brown said. “We’ve struggled to score goals and it’s a result of people not being around the net. We get two dirty, greasy goals tonight and win a game. We need more guys around the net consistently and when you start to get that, other goals start to go in—nice goals.”
Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said he took issue with the non-call.
“It wasn’t so much when the puck went into the net, it was just prior to that because (Sanford) got bumped first and knocked off balance and he was sideways,” Arniel said. “Then the puck obviously went in as he was trying to get himself square.”
Sanford was also upset.
“I don’t know how that’s not goalie interference,” he said. “The guy locks skates with me and then pushes my arm out of the way as soon as the shot comes. It’s disappointing that some of these calls are missed. I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
The Kings then grabbed the lead at the 8:12 mark when Doughty teed it up for a hard slap shot from the right point and Brown redirected it for his sixth of the year.
“We haven’t heard that game-winning song in a long time,” Doughty said of the music playing in the dressing room. “So to finally hear that, it’s definitely a great time. At the same time we have to be happy about this win and cherish it tonight. But when we get to practice tomorrow we’ve got to get right back to work. We’ve got to get on a roll and make up for all those games that we’ve lost.”
Quick made the lead stand. Jeff Carter’s hard shot with 1:30 to go pinged off the crossbar while a crowd of 16,090 sounded its disappointment. With the Blue Jackets pulling Sanford for an extra attacker in the final seconds, James Wisniewski got off a one-timer that Quick stopped. Carter, who scored in the second for his fourth game in a row with a goal, pounced on the rebound but was unable to get it past Quick.
Los Angeles controlled the puck and the pace for most of the night, putting 41 shots on goal. Sanford had a career-best 39 saves as the Blue Jackets faced a season-high in shots on goal.
“The fact (the Kings) came out the way they did and found a way to win a hockey game was a really good sign of the guys’ perseverance that they had to get the job done,” Stevens said. “I thought it was terrific.”
Notes: Scouts from no fewer than 11 teams—Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, New Jersey, St. Louis, Toronto, the New York Rangers, Ottawa, Chicago, Colorado and Montreal—were at the game. … The Kings had been outscored 14-6 during their five-game losing streak.