Kings-Maple Leafs Preview
The Los Angeles Kings got back on the winning track in their last game. Their schedule, however, won't be doing them any favors for the rest of 2015.
The Kings continue to navigate a brutal stretch of more than three weeks almost entirely on the road as they complete a six-game trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Jonathan Quick made a season-high 45 saves, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty scored in the second period and Los Angeles (20-9-2) beat flagging Montreal 3-0 on Thursday. The Kings avoided a third straight loss thanks to Quick, whose team was outshot 15-4 in the third.
"After two tough losses, it's hard to come back and really play your best game, and i thought we play well tonight," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I know that Quickie maybe had to make too many saves, but to get a win in this arena against a tough hockey team, it's big for our club."
Quick and the Kings bounced back from a 5-3 defeat to Ottawa on Monday as they maintained their solid lead over San Jose in the Pacific Division.
That cushion could prove key to Los Angeles still being in first place by the new year. After Saturday's contest, the Kings return home to face the Sharks on Tuesday. After the four-day holiday break, they head back out on a four-game, six-day trip that starts in Arizona and moves through Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, ending the stretch Dec. 31.
Los Angeles will go more than a month without playing back-to-back games at home.
"We learned a lot from last year and how games can slide, one after another, and like I said tonight was a big, probably the most important game for us on this trip, and now that we're through that, it's focusing on going into Toronto," forward Dustin Brown said.
"If you look our games that we win, we get off to a really good start; even tonight I thought we started really well."
The Kings are 13-1-0 when leading after two periods.
Although they're closing out a long trip, Los Angeles could prove to be the better-rested team Saturday. Toronto (10-13-7) has played past regulation in the first three games of its four-game homestand, dropping the last two in overtime.
Both defeats came by 5-4 scores, the most recent to San Jose on Thursday. Brent Burns banked the winning goal off Maple Leafs center Peter Holland's leg midway through the extra period.
Toronto fell behind 2-0 in the first period before scoring four straight goals, but the Sharks sent it to OT with the last two goals of the third.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 26 of 29 shots after Garret Sparks left in the first period with what coach Mike Babcock termed a "long-term" lower-body injury.
James Reimer is already out with a groin injury, meaning Bernier takes over the No. 1 role on a team that's alternated goalies throughout the season.
''He's starting the next game,'' Babcock said of Bernier, 0-8-3 with a 3.46 goals-against average. ''He's got to dig in, and he's got to compete and he's got to battle and he's got to find his mojo. He gets an opportunity now that he might not have gotten, so work and keep it.''
Los Angeles avoided a third consecutive loss in this series with a 2-0 home victory Jan. 12. The Kings dropped the latest meeting at Air Canada Centre 4-3 in a shootout last Dec. 14, but are 6-0-2 in their last eight at Toronto.