Martin Jones leads Kings past Sharks
Martin Jones was face-down in his crease when something hit his leg pad. He swung his glove backward along the goal line, and it turned out to be a spectacular move to stop a puck he couldn’t see.
"I didn’t think I could get there," he said.
The Kings don’t doubt their remarkable rookie goalie. With abundant skill and a bit of luck, Jones made more history while the Kings clobbered a California rival.
Jones made 31 saves in his seventh consecutive win to begin his NHL career, and fellow rookie Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist in Los Angeles’ 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
Jones’ shutout streak ended at 133 minutes, 26 seconds, but Patrick Marleau’s goal with 2:10 to play was just the sixth Jones has allowed in his club-record 7-0 start. He has been unbeatable since his NHL debut on Dec. 3, keeping the Kings on a roll without injured starter Jonathan Quick.
"I’m happy with the way I’ve played thus far, but we’ve still got two games until the (Christmas) break," Jones said. "It’s fun, but we want to make sure we finish out these games the right way."
Already the first goalie since the 1938-39 NHL season to record three shutouts in his first six starts, Jones is one victory shy of Bob Froese’s NHL record 8-0 start. Jones even earned an assist in the second period on a goal by Toffoli, his teammate in the AHL until recently.
"It’s not a real surprise to me," Toffoli said. "In Manchester, he’s making 50 saves a night. He’s just a big goalie, and he’s always in the right spot."
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 20, 2013
Dwight King and Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist apiece for the Kings, who ran over San Jose for their eighth win in nine games to cap a 15-2-4 stretch since Nov. 2.
Not everything went well for Los Angeles: Captain Dustin Brown was ejected for a knee-on-knee hit on Tomas Hertl late in the first period. San Jose’s rookie goal-scorer didn’t return to the game, and coach Todd McLellan offered little update, saying only it’s "not a good thing."
Brown and Hertl collided late in the scoreless first period, with Brown making a cut at the Sharks’ blue line before their right knees connected. Hertl dropped his equipment on the ice and limped to the dressing room.
"It’s tough," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "I didn’t see the play. I don’t know how long he’s going to be out."
Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots on a miserable night for the Sharks, who have lost six of eight while falling off the pace set by their two Southern California rivals, who have two of the NHL’s four best records.
The home team has won 15 straight games between San Jose and Los Angeles, including all seven in the Kings’ second-round playoff series victory last spring.
Shortly after Alec Martinez opened the scoring with a wobbly slap shot off Toffoli’s pass, Toffoli added his ninth goal in impressive fashion, getting an extra-long pass from Slava Voynov and beating Niemi with a vicious wrist shot.
Highlights?! You got it! http://t.co/NQUhqTSjU2
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 20, 2013
The Sharks had two golden opportunities to score on the same sequence late in the period, but Joe Pavelski whiffed on an open net before Tommy Wingels botched an ensuing wraparound chance, allowing Jones to make his latest spectacular save from that awkward position.
"When you play against that team, you don’t get very many of those chances," McLellan said of the Sharks’ early woes. "So you’ve got to at least make the goaltender work, but we didn’t do that. Whether we’re squeezing the sticks too tight, or whatever term you want to use, eventually for us to be successful, they have to produce."
In the opening minute of the third, Carter tapped in his 10th goal off a pass from King, who bulled past San Jose’s Justin Braun after the Sharks’ neutral-zone turnover. King then chopped home a rebound while Carter generated traffic in front of Niemi.
NOTES: Kings D Willie Mitchell missed his third straight game with an injury. … D Scott Hannan returned to San Jose’s lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury. … Marleau played in his 1,200th career game, and Los Angeles D Drew Doughty played in his 400th. Both have spent their entire careers with one team after making an NHL roster as 18-year-old prodigies.