A five-game road trip for the Los Angeles Kings continued Tuesday with a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The trip started off with a 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, leaving the Kings near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. After a somewhat slow start, the Kings put their stamp on Tuesday's game with a dominant second period performance earning themselves a victory and improving their record to 3-3-2 on the season.
The Blue Jackets led 1-0 after the opening frame, but the Kings came out strong after the first intermission, scoring three goals and outshooting Columbus 17-2 in the second period.
Center Anze Kopitar scored to tie the game at one just 32 seconds into the middle period, and then former Blue Jacket Jeff Carter gave the Kings their first lead of the night with a power play goal less than four minutes later. Carter threw what looked to be a pass in front of the Columbus net, but the puck managed to catch enough of an opposing players' skate to change direction and trickle past Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason.
The announcement of Carter's goal at Nationwide Arena sent the Columbus crowd of 11,019 into a frenzy, and they enormously booed the Kings forward who was traded away last February in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson. Carter played just 39 games for the Blue Jackets last season before leaving Columbus on delicate terms.
Dustin Brown and Mike Richards earned the assists on Carter's goal, giving Brown his fourth power play point over the last three games. The Kings finished the game one-for-three on the power play, and they have now scored on five of their last 17 after starting the season in an 0-for-25 slump.
Defenseman Slava Voynov, who had a goal disallowed in the first period due to goaltender interference, scored his second of the season on a one timer to the top of the net at the middle of the second period.
The Kings, who took a 3-2 lead off of Voynov's goal, would shut the Blue Jackets out in the third period. Richards was responsible for the only goal in the final 20 minutes, scoring off the rebound of a Justin Williams shot just five seconds after a Columbus penalty expired midway through the third period. The goal was Richards' first of the season, and earned Williams his third assist of the night.
Richards completed a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and a fight) with his third-period goal, after already having recorded an assist and a fight earlier on in the game. Kings blueliner Rob Scuderi was run into the boards in the second period by Columbus' Brandon Dubinsky, sending him to the locker room after his face collided with the blue ledge that separates the boards and the glass. Without hesitation, Richards dropped the gloves and squared off with Dubinsky in an effort to stick up for his veteran teammate. Scuderi would return to play with a heavily bruised eye, while Dubinsky earned himself five minute penalties for boarding and fighting, and a 10 minute game misconduct for his head butt on Richards.
Prior to the fight between Richards and Dubinsky, Kings forward Colin Fraser and the Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett earned five minute fighting penalties earlier in the second period.
The Kings' top six forwards were heavily involved in the scoring Tuesday night, something that has been absent at times early in the season. In fact, a first or second-line forward had a hand in each of the Kings' four goals against the Blue Jackets.
Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick played well against the Blue Jackets; it was a great rebound effort for Quick after his dismal performance against the Ducks where he lasted only six minutes into the game before being pulled. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner looked a lot more like himself in the win, giving up just two goals and stopping 18 of 20 Columbus shots.
Former Kings defenseman Jack Johnson played a whopping 34 minutes and 13 seconds against Los Angeles, even though he played 34 minutes and 59 seconds in Columbus' last game against the Detroit Red Wings. Johnson (28:00 per game) has been playing heavy minutes all season in a starring role with the Blue Jackets, trailing only his former teammate Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (28:41 per game) for the NHL lead in average ice time.
The Kings' five-game road trip will continue in Nashville against the Predators on Thursday at 5 PM PST.
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