Kings 2, Blue Jackets 1

After playing 38 scoreless minutes, the Los Angeles Kings

finally got a goal off a turnover and another from a fortuitous

deflection. Then their backup goalie lost his shutout late, and

they had to hang on by their fingernails to beat the NHL’s worst

team.

The defending Stanley Cup champions aren’t winning with flair.

As long as they’re winning, though, coach Darryl Sutter won’t

care.

Kyle Clifford opened the scoring late in the second period,

Jonathan Bernier made 12 saves and the Kings beat the Columbus Blue

Jackets 2-1 Friday night for their first regulation win at home

this season.

Mike Richards scored during a two-man advantage in the third

period for the Kings (5-5-2), who climbed over Columbus and out of

last place in the Western Conference with their second straight

victory. Not much about it was eye-catching, but the Kings’ slow

start to their title defense and a brutal February schedule can

make any win look beautiful.

”We’re trying to play really good defensively and score big

goals,” Sutter said. ”That’s the way we’re going to have to play,

right? … If you limit them to that many shots, it means as a

group you did enough to win.”

Although Nick Foligno ended the shutout bid with 2:25 to play,

Bernier largely shut down Columbus’ punchless offense, even picking

up his second career assist in his second straight victory in place

of Jonathan Quick.

In his first back-to-back starts since January 2011, Bernier and

his patchwork defense – which is missing three of last season’s six

regulars due to injury – kept the Kings firmly in control for most

of their second win over Columbus in 11 days. Los Angeles returned

from a five-game trip for their only Staples Center appearance in a

nine-game stretch over the first three weeks of February.

”It got pretty tough at the end, but it definitely helps when

you can keep those shots on the outside,” Bernier said. ”We’re

trying to win some games in a tough stretch, so we needed it, no

matter who we’re playing.”

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 20 shots for the 30th-place Blue

Jackets, who opened a six-game trip with their fourth loss in five

games.

After scoring six goals against San Jose on Monday, the Blue

Jackets’ offense vanished again in their first outing since firing

general manager Scott Howson on Tuesday. President of hockey

operations John Davidson replaced Howson with Jarmo Kekalainen, but

the first European GM in NHL history won’t join Columbus for a few

more days while working out visa issues back in Finland.

”We didn’t win a lot of battles tonight,” Blue Jackets coach

Todd Richards said. ”There was more urgency in (the Kings’) game

than there was in ours, as far as winning those 1-on-1 battles in

the offensive zones. We were spending more time in our defensive

zone, using up our energy.”

Clifford finally opened the scoring with his first goal in 10

games with 80 seconds left in the period, taking the puck from

Nikita Nikitin at mid-ice and wiring a wrist shot past Bobrovsky.

Los Angeles finally had a lead at home for the first time all

season, and Richards added to it early in the third period when his

centering pass deflected into the net while Jeff Carter roared

through the crease.

Foligno ended Bernier’s shutout late with a rebound goal in

front of the net, but Columbus couldn’t equalize during a lengthy

stretch of empty-net play.

Defenseman Jack Johnson had an assist in his first game in Los

Angeles since the Kings traded him to Columbus last February for

Carter, whose arrival kick-started the Kings’ late surge into the

playoffs and on to their first NHL title.

After a quiet first period, Columbus had multiple scoring

chances on power plays in the second, but they all missed,

including Foligno’s botched chance on a breakaway with Vinny

Prospal.

”When you have that much time, sometimes you think too much,”

Foligno said. ”And that’s exactly what I got caught doing. I was

thinking, `Do I shoot or throw it back to Vinny?’ And by that time,

Bernier came out with a poke-check and I mishandled it and put it

into the corner. That’s something I’ve got to bear down on so that

it goes in the back of the net. Then it would be a little different

game.”

NOTES: Columbus D Adrian Aucoin returned from a six-game absence

with a lower-body injury, but D James Wisniewski stayed home with

his wife for the birth of their first child, and D John Moore sat

out his fifth straight game despite being available to return from

a lower-body injury. … D Keaton Ellerby played his first home

game for the Kings, who acquired him from Florida one week earlier.

He partnered with former Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, a

minus-10 with no goals in Los Angeles’ first 11 games. … Kings D

Slava Voynov is from Chelyabinsk, Russia, where an exploding meteor

injured more than 1,000 people Friday. Voynov checked in by phone

with several friends who were all safe.