Kunitz powers Penguins over Kings 3-0
Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves in his 30th NHL shutout, and Chris Kunitz had two goals in a three-point game to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 on Thursday night.
Kris Letang scored his first goal of the season, and Evgeni Malkin became the fifth player in team history to register 400 assists as the Penguins used their dominant power play and a steady performance from Fleury to hand the defending champion Kings just their second regulation loss.
Pittsburgh went 2 for 6 with the man advantage, including two first-period goals that put the Kings on their heels.
Martin Jones made 20 saves for Los Angeles, but the Kings failed to score for the second time in 10 games this season.
The Kings lost in regulation for just the second time this season despite injuries to forward Marian Gaborik and defenseman Trevor Lewis and the suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov. Los Angeles lost another vital piece when Anze Kopitar sustained an upper body injury against Columbus on Sunday.
Kopitar skated Thursday morning but sat out for a second straight game. The Kings called up forward David Van der Gulik from the AHL to give them a full roster of 20 healthy bodies, one more than they were forced to play with in Philadelphia on Tuesday because of salary cap issues.
The Penguins have been relatively healthy by comparison and took the ice with a bit of an emotional jolt on a night the team took part in the "Hockey Fights Cancer" campaign. Pittsburgh wore purple jerseys during warmups and started defenseman Olli Maatta, who will undergo surgery next week to remove a potentially cancerous tumor from his thyroid.
The crowded chanted the 20-year-old Maatta's name at several points, but it was the Penguins' unparalleled power play that brought them to life.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston is still tinkering in his first season behind the bench but some things haven't changed. The Penguins remain one of the NHL's most explosive teams, and the power play remains one of the league's best.
Pittsburgh began the night atop the league, converting 41 percent of its chances with the man advantage. The Penguins wasted little time getting to work following some uncharacteristically undisciplined play by Los Angeles.
The Kings drew four minors in the first period, and the Penguins pounced. Kunitz flipped in his fourth goal of the season off a slick fake shot-pass from Malkin during a 5-on-3 power play 9:16 into the game. Letang doubled the lead six minutes later when he slipped the puck between Jones' legs with the Penguins up a man.
Los Angeles carried play when the teams were at even strength, the Kings just struggled building any momentum. Whenever they would get close, a whistle would slow them down.
The Penguins have struggled with two-goal leads at times this season but finished off the Kings with steady play in the third. Kunitz pushed the lead to 3-0 with just over 10 minutes left when he pounced on a rebound of Sidney Crosby's shot and fired a shot from along the goal line over a sprawled Jones.
NOTES: Malkin joined Ron Francis, Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh's 400-assist club. ... Los Angeles went 0 for 3 on the power play. Pittsburgh has killed 21 straight penalties. ... The Penguins host Buffalo on Saturday. ... The Kings continue their five-game road trip on Friday in Detroit.