Four games, four wins, two shutouts and three goals allowed. Martin Jones is off to quite a start in the NHL.
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The 23-year-old rookie stopped 38 shots, Jeff Carter scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory.
Jones has now beaten two Original Six teams in Montreal and Toronto in addition to wins over the Islanders and Ducks.
”I try not to think about that too much,” he said when asked about his impressive run. ”I just make sure I’m ready when I am called upon, just try to give these guys a chance to win. We’ve got a great team here. It’s not like I’m getting called upon to steal games here.”
But Jones, who made 18 saves in the third, flashed a big grin when asked if he was having fun.
”Yeah, I’m trying to enjoy it as well,” he said.
Jones has a .974 save percentage and a 0.74 goals-against average. He has stopped 111 of 114 shots.
Carter beat former teammate Jonathan Bernier with a wrist shot between the legs on a 2-on-1 break at 9:40 for his eighth of the season. Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger failed to keep the puck in the Los Angeles end, creating the odd-man rush.
”Bad decision,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. ”In a 1-1 hockey game with 10 minutes left, it’s an ill-advised pinch.”
Kyle Clifford added an insurance goal with 1:59 remaining and Drew Doughty also scored for Los Angeles before 19,375 at the Air Canada Centre. Following a 6-0 victory Tuesday night in Montreal, the Kings improved to 12-1-4 in their last 17 games.
Cody Franson scored his first of the season for Toronto in the second period.
”By far it was our best effort in the last couple of months,” Carlyle said. ”But no reward for it. And we have to use it as a starting point.”
The Maple Leafs were without captain and top defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who was serving the first half of a two-game suspension for a hit on Boston’s Kevan Miller last weekend. But forward Joffrey Lupul returned after a seven-game absence due to a groin tear.
The Maple Leafs showed more jump than a Los Angeles team that was playing for the second night in a row. Toronto outshot the Kings 39-23, but was unable to convert most of its chances.
”It’s like pushing that snowball,” sighed Carlyle. ”It seems every time you lose, it gets bigger.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Maple Leafs, with games at St. Louis and Pittsburgh sandwiched around a visit Saturday by Stanley Cup champion Chicago.
Carlyle said his players showed their frustration.
”They’re down,” he said. ”Because we had so many opportunities, so many offensive chances.”
Los Angeles scored first on the power play at 10:30 of the first period, on a high wrist shot by Doughty from the top of the circle. It was his sixth goal of the season and the 200th point of his 396-game career.
Peter Holland was in the box for holding. Toronto’s penalty-killing unit came into the game ranked 26th in the NHL.
Jones denied Nikolai Kulemin from point-blank range twice later in the period. The Kings have gone 17 games without allowing a first-period goal.
Jones also stopped Phil Kessel all alone after he stole a pass and broke through the defense early in the second. It took the Kings 5-1/2 minutes to get a shot on net in the period.
”We didn’t play too well at all,” Doughty said. ”Probably one of our worst games in a while.”
Kings forward Colin Fraser was helped to the dressing room midway through the second after running into Frazer McLaren near the bench. There was no penalty called on the play.
McLaren did go to the box after a spirited scrap with Jordan Nolan, son of interim Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan.
Toronto took advantage of a 5-on-3 chance when Franson scored at 14:30, snapping a shot from a poor angle after a slick cross-ice pass from Kessel. Jones prevented further damage by stopping Lupul from in close with the second penalty about to expire.
Jones made several big saves as the clock ticked down to preserve the lead.
NOTES: The Kings’ last game at the Air Canada Centre was Dec. 19, 2011, when Los Angeles won 3-2 in a shootout. It was the last game before Darryl Sutter took over as coach. . . . Rookie defenseman Morgan Rielly returned to the Toronto lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three games. Jean-Michael Liles sat out. . . . The Kings improved to 15-2-2 when scoring first.