Kings clinch playoff spot with 2-1 win over Bruins
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings accomplished the first step toward their ultimate goal: a third Stanley Cup title in five years.
Their 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, coupled with Arizona’s 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, clinched a playoff berth a year after they became the eighth team in NHL history to miss the postseason after winning the Stanley Cup.
It was the Kings’ earliest clinching since Dean Lombardi became general manager in April 2006.
“The goal is to clinch a playoff spot as early as you can,” said left wing Milan Lucic, who spent his first eight NHL seasons in Boston before joining the Kings in a trade last June. “It’s a great accomplishment. It’s been a fun 71 games so far, and we’ve got to keep the foot on the gas pedal.”
Tanner Pearson and Alec Martinez scored and Jonathan Quick made 27 saves, helping the Kings win for the 11th time in their last 14 games.
“With 11 games left, you expect the best from every team. So hopefully we keep playing that hard-nosed style of hockey, that playoff style of hockey,” Lucic said. “It’s that playoff push right now, and everybody’s trying to get as many points as they can, finish as high up in the standings as possible and sharpen up their game.”
The Kings, vying for just their second division title in franchise history, lead the Pacific by six points over Anaheim and seven over San Jose with 11 games left on the schedule.
“I’ve only got here a couple of months ago, but these guys have been working since October. So it’s definitely nice to clinch a playoff spot,” said forward Vincent Lecavalier, who’s playing his 17th and final NHL season and would like nothing better than to add another Stanley Cup title to the one he won with Tampa Bay in 2004.
Tyler Randell scored for Boston and Tuukka Rask stopped 18 shots. The Bruins remained three points behind Florida in the Atlantic Division race with nine games remaining - including a showdown with the Panthers next Thursday in Boston.
The Bruins lost all three games on their California swing for the second straight season, and are 1-8-0 in the Golden State since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
“When we came out here, we knew it was going to be a big challenge for us — and it was. You can definitely see that,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “They are good teams for a reason. Down the road, that’s what we’re going to face, and we have to make sure we’re ready for that kind of hockey.”
The last time these teams met on Feb. 9, the Kings won 9-2 at Boston with nine players scoring goals for them. They had a season-high 57 shots on net and were 3 for 3 on the power play.
“Boston definitely came with their best game tonight and they really pressed to get themselves back in the game,” Lucic said. “But we were able to hold them to only one goal, and you’ve got to credit that to our goaltending and our penalty-killing.”
Pearson opened the scoring at 19:09 of the first period with his 13th goal, redirecting Luke Schenn’s one-timer from the right point over Rask’s right shoulder after Lecavalier intercepted defenseman Torey Krug’s attempted backhanded clearing pass up the boards. The Kings are 12-0-0 when Pearson scores a goal.
Martinez made it 2-0 at 2:40 of the second, getting a return pass from Jake Muzzin and using teammate Anze Kopitar as a screen to beat Rask with a one-timer from 55 feet.
The Bruins, coming off a 4-0 loss at Anaheim on Friday night, were 0 for 4 on the power play.
“We didn’t give them too much the first half of the game, and then they picked it up and got momentum off their power play,” Lecavalier said. “Tonight wasn’t the prettiest game, but Quickie made some unbelievable saves and we got it done on the PK, which was great tonight.”
NOTES: The Kings were 10-3-0 this season against the “Original Six” franchises, winning their last eight. ... Sunday is Bobby Orr’s 68th birthday. ... Rask was the second goalie selected in the 2005 draft and Quick was the seventh. Rask has 165 wins, 30 shutouts, a Vezina Trophy and a Stanley Cup ring. Quick has 249 wins, 41 shutouts, a Conn Smythe Trophy and two Stanley Cup rings. ... Bruins D Kevan Miller, who was born in Los Angeles, had a career plus-minus rating of plus-53 in three NHL seasons. ... Los Angeles finished its schedule against Eastern Conference teams with a 20-9-3 record. ... The Kings are 37-1-5 when allowing fewer than three goals.