He was becoming almost predictable.
All that winning. Victory after victory. Even his shutouts were starting to lose that certain surprise factor.
And so, in his seventh NHL start, Kings goalie Martin Jones unveiled another skill: some offense. Jones picked up his first NHL point when he had the second assist on rookie forward Tyler Toffoli’s second-period goal in the Kings’ 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
The Kings have won eight of their last nine games and have given up two goals or fewer in 20 of the last 21 games. Toffoli had a goal and an assist, as did Dwight King and Jeff Carter.
On Thursday night, the Staples Center crowd was treated to another all-round display from Jones, the rookie who recorded his seventh victory in seven starts. Jones made 31 saves and was 2:10 away from his fourth shutout of the season when Sharks veteran Patrick Marleau beat him with a quick release from up the middle.
Incredibly, Jones is one victory away from tying the NHL record for most consecutive wins to start an NHL career. Bob Froese of the Flyers went 8-0-0 in the 1982-83 season.
The biggest moment for Jones was saving a certain goal when he scrambled and denied aTommy Wingels wraparound attempt, grabbing it at the line late in the second period.
Jones wasn’t sure he had made the save. “I couldn’t tell until I saw the replay,” he said.
That highlight-making play came with the Kings holding a 2-0 lead.
Jones, typically, was understated about it all.
“They had some chances on the power play, good teams are going to do that,” he said. “I thought five-on-five we were really strong tonight. We carried a lot of the play. Going into the third with a two-goal lead, that’s not easy to do.”
And his first NHL point?
“It was a great pass by Slava,” Jones said.
His powers of observation are accurate.
Slava Voynov made a terrific outlet pass to Toffoli, who was coming down the right wing and beat Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with a laser of a shot.
The Kings had to play most of the game without captain Dustin Brown, who was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl late in the first period.
The first Kings goal was scored by defenseman Alec Martinez, who beat Niemi with a shot from the left point at 5:26 of the second period.
“It was a bit of a knuckler. I wish I could do that on purpose,” Martinez said.
Toffoli set that one up and then scored a beauty himself in the second period.
The Kings put the game away early in the third, scoring twice in a span of three shots: King made a nifty play to set up linemate Carter for a tap-in, just 36 seconds into the period, and added one himself, scoring on a rebound at 6:16. It was King’s 10th goal of the season.
Before the game, Wingels had talked about facing Jones.
“A guy like that, you’ve got to make him move and you’ve got to get second or third chances,” Wingels told the San Jose Mercury News. “When he’s scrambling or out of position, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Who knows? Maybe it takes a fourth chance against Jones.