LOS ANGELES—The Kings weren’t scoring nearly enough goals. Not on the power play, not in the first period and certainly not when back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier was in net.
So much for downward trends.
The Kings came through in their most deficient areas Monday night against the visiting Washington Capitals, scoring early, scoring often and scoring with the man advantage en route to matching their season-high goal total in the 5-2 victory at Staples Center.
“It’s a good source of confidence,” said Kings second-year forward Kyle Clifford, who had a goal and an assist for the first multi-point regular-season game of his career. “We had a little bit from everybody tonight, from our goaltender to our defense and our forwards. Even our power play got one, so it’s definitely good. We worked hard and we deserve the win.”
The Kings came in with a league-low 16 goals in the opening period, eight less than the next slowest starter in the NHL. They scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to take a 2-1 lead.
They entered the game having scored 11 goals in Bernier’s previous seven starts this season, but provided Bernier the most support since a 5-2 victory against visiting Edmonton last Jan. 15.
And they came in 28th in the league on the power play, owning one man-advantage goal in their previous seven games. Justin Williams took care of that midway through the third period, the final goal in what can be considered a barrage for Kings, who came in averaging a league-low 2.02 goals a game.
“We scored all of the goals the same way,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “Going in front of the net, stopping around the net, rebound plays. They’re all capable of doing that ... It was good for the guys.”
Every player who scored for the Kings has been in an offensive slump. Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, Jack Johnson, Clifford and Williams.
Johnson, who buried what turned out to be the game winner early in the second period, liked the team’s offensive creativity against the Capitals
“Our first option wasn’t necessarily just dumping the puck in,” he said. “We were looking to make plays and gain some offensive-zone possession. That should be your No. 1 objective every time. When you dump it in, sometimes you’re just giving it right back to them. You can’t keep giving it back to skilled teams. I thought we were really good with that tonight. Hopefully it continues.”
Clifford said his teammates approached the game with a fresh mindset after a troubling 1-0 loss Saturday afternoon against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, who came in with the worst record in the NHL.
“It was a playoff game tonight,” he said. “We needed these two points to keep moving up. We had a tough one the other night against Columbus. It’s no secret we’ve gone through some offensive withdrawals.”
Sutter gave the players the day off from practice Tuesday. They’ll get together again Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s game against visiting Dallas, who the Kings leapfrogged in the Western Conference standings with the victory, moving them from ninth to sixth.
“It’s a great feeling tonight but it’s only one game, we’ve got to do it consistently,” said Johnson, who ‘Tebowed” after his goal in recognition of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s now famous pose. “You can’t just do it once every 20 games.”