Kings Keep Predators at Bay in 3-0 Victory
The Kings’ No Excuses Tour, also known as the 2003-04 NHL season, rolled on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center.
Instead of wringing their hands about injuries to standout forwards Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh and Jozef Stumpel, the Kings sent out a lineup that included the fresh-scrubbed faces of Sean Avery, Michael Cammalleri and Kip Brennan.
The Predators never had a chance, with the King youngsters providing all the scoring goaltender Roman Cechmanek would need for his 100th career victory, a 3-0 rout before a crowd of 16,935.
Avery, 23, scored his second goal of the season and the 10th in his budding career. Cammalleri, 21, scored his first in 2003-04 and the sixth of his career. Brennan, 23, scored his first NHL goal.
“Rather unlikely sources, yeah,” Coach Andy Murray said after the game. “We’ll take scoring any time from anyone. It’s kind of been scoring by committee right now because of all the injuries we’ve had.”
Whatever else has ailed the Kings this season, seizing the moment hasn’t been a problem. The victory gave the Kings a 5-1-1-1 record in their last eight games and moved them into a tie with the Mighty Ducks for the Pacific Division lead with 20 points.
The Predators were so desperate to avoid a shutout that Coach Barry Trotz pulled goalie Tomas Vokoun in favor of an extra skater after King center Eric Belanger took a tripping penalty with 3 minutes 41 seconds to play.
Cechmanek flopped around in his crease, making 30 saves and looking painfully awkward in an era of composed butterfly goaltenders who have the angles covered down to the smallest millimeter. His most eye-grabbing save was with his mask, nodding a high shot from Scott Hartnell into the corner on a first-period odd-man rush.
“Stopping the puck is the only style that matters,” defenseman Aaron Miller said of Cechmanek, 100-49-23 with 23 career shutouts. “He was very sharp for us tonight. We’ll go as far as he’ll take us this season. He’s been good for the past two seasons [while with the Philadelphia Flyers]. If he gets hot we’ll be that much better.”
When Avery and Cammalleri scored 2 1/2 minutes apart early in the first period, the Kings had the sort of momentum required to subdue the Predators.
Joe Corvo, playing his first game since serving a three-game suspension imposed by the team after he pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman last year in a Boston bar, assisted on Avery’s goal.
Cammalleri whipped a quick shot past Vokoun, who was screened by the Predators’ Jamie Allison.
Brennan’s goal early in the second period, on a deflection off a point-blank shot from the slot by defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, gave the Kings what turned out to be an insurmountable three-goal lead.
“You don’t want to be here because guys are injured,” Cammalleri said, “but you want to help the organization any way you can.”
The Kings survived their only serious lapse in judgment in the first period, when Avery needlessly checked Hartnell into the boards from behind. Avery drew a boarding major and a game misconduct, but Murray said he didn’t expect further discipline from the league office.
Hartnell was shaken but played a regular shift the rest of the game.
Given five minutes to trim a 2-0 deficit, Predator defenseman Marek Zidlicky took an obstruction hooking penalty, and whatever momentum Nashville had with the man-advantage fizzled.