The Kings flew past the St. Louis Blues, 5-1, at Staples Center on Thursday night. The Kings (21-17-4) scored early, scored some more and kept the Blues (21-16-5) from generating quality scoring chances until the third period. Below is what we learned from the game.
The offense is not resting yet
There were a few layers to the Kings offensive production in this one.
First, the Kings righted their poor first-period play in recent games with a power-play goal from Jake Muzzin and a well-placed wrist shot by Trevor Lewis. The Kings had been outscored 6-0 in the three prior third periods, two of which led to losses to the Detroit Red Wings (4-0) and Dallas Stars (6-4).
Second, the Kings continued a hot stretch in which they have now scored 13 goals in three games. Muzzin netted two, Tanner Pearson scored twice to give him 13 goals on the season and Lewis scored for the first time since Dec. 10.
“First period we had trouble scoring goals since Christmas, especially five-on-five,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “Getting the lead is the biggest difference. Not sure if it’s an improvement, but that’s for sure what stood out.”
Special special teams
The Blues came into the game with the league’s fifth-best power play at 22.6% on the season, but they looked totally out of sync on their three opportunities Thursday.
They went on two straight power plays in the first period and did not put a shot on goal. They also were sloppy in their entries and allowed the Kings to repeatedly toss the puck out of their zone.
“We scored the first goal, and our power play and our penalty killing was the difference in the game,” Sutter said. “Five-on-five, I’m not really sure how good we were.”
The Kings’ power-play goal came when Jori Lehtera was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking. That gave the Kings four minutes to score a maximum two goals, which amounted to Muzzin’s second power-play goal in three games.
Work and a win
Peter Budaj bounced back from his worst start of the season by giving up one goal on 22 shots. Fourteen of those shots came in the third period after the Kings suffocated the Blues’ offense for the first 40 minutes of action.
Sutter was pleased to see Budaj blitzed with a handful of solid chances in the final period.
“Good for Peter to have to make some big saves in the third,” Sutter said. “It’s good for him to feel good about himself.”
The 34-year-old Budaj has been the Kings’ main replacement for starting goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has now missed three months since injuring his groin on opening night. Budaj is now 19-11 in 34 starts with a goals against average of 2.10. He gave up five goals on 22 shots in a 6-4 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday and was pulled for Jeff Zatkoff midway through the third period.
On Thursday he was the steady veteran presence the Kings have leaned on many times this season.
““[Budaj] definitely wanted to bounce back and he played his game,” Pearson said. “And we definitely did our part.”