LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kyle Clifford scored the tiebreaking goal, Jonathan Quick made 20 saves, and the Los Angeles Kings slowed the Columbus Blue Jackets’ late-season surge with a 2-1 victory Thursday night.
Drew Doughty scored an early power-play goal for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who kept pace with San Jose for fourth place in the Western Conference by snapping Columbus’ five-game winning streak one shy of the franchise record in a defense-dominated game.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 21 shots and Dalton Prout scored his first NHL goal for the eighth-place Blue Jackets, who lost for the first time in four stops on their six-game trip.
The Blue Jackets’ remarkable rally finally hit snag in the form of Los Angeles’ Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie and his sturdy defense, but they’ve still got a solid playoff shot for a team that was last in the NHL on Feb. 25. Columbus is on a 16-5-5 roll since then, including five wins in seven road games.
The Blue Jackets won the first three games of their six-game trip, beating Anaheim in overtime one night earlier to move clear of Detroit for eighth place in the West. The Red Wings and Dallas both trail Columbus by two points with two games in hand on the Blue Jackets, who have just three games left in their season.
Matt Greene returned to Los Angeles’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 19 after missing 42 games with a back injury. The veteran defenseman was hurt in the Kings’ season opener and underwent surgery, but returned in time to get in game shape for the postseason.
The Kings went ahead during 4-on-3 play 8 minutes in when Doughty sidled up to the net and chipped the puck off Fedor Tyutin’s leg and past Bobrovsky for his sixth goal of the season — and the fifth in seven games for a defenseman who didn’t score a goal in the season’s first 28 games.
Los Angeles largely shut down Columbus’ offense, allowing just seven shots in the first 30 minutes, but Bobrovsky denied several good Kings scoring chances. Prout then put a long shot through traffic in front of Quick to even it for Columbus, with the defenseman scoring in his 30th NHL game.
Just 1:25 later, the Kings’ fourth line came through when Clifford fired home a rebound from close range for his first goal in 17 games since March 16.
Both goalies were sharp in the scoreless third period, which ended with a prolonged scrum after the final horn. Columbus’ Nick Foligno stayed on the ice after his teammates went to the dressing room, yelling and gesturing at the Kings.
“I think they were just upset that we won,” Clifford said.
NOTES: Los Angeles C Anze Kopitar got his 300th career assist. … With Greene’s return, the Kings scratched D Keaton Ellerby, who was acquired from Florida earlier this season while Greene and Willie Mitchell were out with long-term injuries. D Alec Martinez, a regular on last season’s championship team, hasn’t played since Robyn Regehr joined Los Angeles’ lineup April 4. … Columbus D Nikita Nikitin sat out with a lower-body injury, and D Adrian Aucoin missed his second straight game. … The Kings wore blue pregame warmup jerseys with the Dodgers’ famed script and red uniform numbers on the front. Longtime Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda dropped the ceremonial first puck, but forgot to shake the hand of Columbus’ Jack Johnson