LOS ANGELES-- When you’re facing a team as lousy as the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing well for brief stretches is usually enough to suitcase a win.
Playing that way against the league's other 29 teams? Probably not.
But thanks to a last-second power-play goal by defenseman Drew Doughty, the Kings escaped with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at Staples Center, their final home game until Feb. 15.
Except for a couple smooth scoring plays by Justin Williams and Dustin Penner, the game was neither pretty nor progressive, save for the two points the Kings earned in the standings.
The defense twice gave away one-goal leads against a team with the worst record in the league--by a whopping 11 points--and was coming off a 6-0 thrashing the night before in San Jose. The Kings helped the Blue Jackets overcome the adversity by gliding through long stretches without so much as managing a shot on goal. They generally played as if their minds, bodies and luggage were already in St. Louis, where they open their season-long six-game road trip Friday night.
Doughty was the first to admit that the Kings can perform much better.
“It wasn’t a great game for us,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we learn from the wrong things we did and build off this win.”
Williams gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal midway through the first period, extending his points streak to nine games. That was a good thing.
They gave it right back when defenseman Rob Scuderi committed a turnover in his own zone and goalie Jonathan Quick gave up a long rebound off a shot by Vinny Prospal. Quick's momentum carried him out of the crease, leaving a wide open net for Derek Dorsett.
A bad thing.
Penner took back the one-goal lead after a nifty steal at the Columbus blue line. He skated in and beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford with a swift wrist shot for an unassisted goal at the 14:32 mark of the second.
But the Kings couldn’t hold that one either. Quick saved John Moore's 55-foot slap shot early in the third period, but again allowed a long rebound and got caught out of the crease. Fourth-line forward Colton Gillies jumped on the loose puck and shot it into another open net for his first goal in 44 games this season.
Very bad thing.
“When you have a goal lead coming into the third period, you’ve got to lock that down,” Williams said. “So, we have to clean up a few things, obviously. They scored a couple goals off our turnovers. They got, essentially, what we gave them.”
Fortunately, the Blue Jackets gave the Kings one last power play when Sammy Pahlsson was sent to the box for holding Williams with 1:06 left in regulation. After a mad scramble in front of the net in the closing seconds, Doughty got to a loose puck and shot it past Sanford just as the horn sounded, muffling the sighs of relief on the Kings’ bench.
“We were real average, quite honest,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “The difference between this game and the last time we played Columbus (a 1-0 loss on Jan. 14), was special teams. The last time we had three power plays and didn’t score, and this time we scored two power-play goals.”
As the Kings head on the road for two weeks, they won’t be facing any travel-weary teams who were beaten up the night before in another unfriendly arena. They won't be able to snooze through long stretches and still pad their point total.
Simply put, they won't get away with just being average.