LOS ANGELES — With the Los Angeles Kings struggling for goals through the month of January, a breakthrough did not appear likely to occur against the second-best defensive team in the NHL.
However, with help from a struggling power play and scoring from the blue line, the Kings posted their highest goal total of 2014 on Thursday.
Winger Justin Williams celebrated his 800th NHL game with a goal and an assist, and goaltender Jonathan Quick made 20 saves as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Boston Bruins 4-2.
The Kings (27-13-5) bounced back from a shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. In the win over Boston, Los Angeles got goals from wingers Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and defenseman Alec Martinez.
Brown, who suffered through an unproductive first half of the season, scored in two of the past three games.
“I was in a pretty bad funk,” he said. “I don’t know if it was physical, mental or a combination of both, but my game is finally getting back to the level I expect.”
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter asked for more production from his depth players earlier in the week, among them Martinez. The defenseman’s third goal of the season was his first since he scored against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 19. Martinez’s improved play has moved veteran defenseman Matt Greene out of the lineup.
“We work on shooting by the defenseman, and this time it worked,” Martinez said. “It was a great pass by Robyn Regehr, who played it right into my wheelhouse.”
Boston (28-14-2) lost for the fourth time in six games and remained two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the lead in the Atlantic Division. Wingers Matt Fraser and Justin Florek scored the Bruins’ goals. Goalie Tuukka Rask took the loss, stopping 15 of 18 Los Angeles shots before being pulled in the second period.
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows his team’s uncharacteristic poor defensive play needs to cease if Boston is to hold off the Lightning in a surprising division race. The Bruins entered the game tied with Los Angeles for the fewest goals against in the NHL, but they surrendered too many scoring chances to win the game.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot the way we are going,” Julien said. “It’s pretty simple, we need to have better puck management.”
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara feels that the team’s poor performance of late is just a valley that all teams go through during the course of a long season.
“I think we know we can be better,” Chara said. “We know we will get back to our game if we are patient, but it is not going to happen overnight.”
Los Angeles took a commanding 3-0 lead with two goals inside the first two minutes of the middle frame. Williams scored his 14th goal of the season on the power play at the 44-second mark, and Martinez’s wrist shot eluded Rask at 1:45. Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to pull Rask in favor of Chad Johnson immediately after Martinez’s goal.
Boston sliced the deficit to two when Fraser beat Quick with a slap shot off an odd-man rush at 9:55 of the second period, with center Carl Soderberg and defenseman Dougie Hamilton drawing the assists. Though the Bruins gained momentum from the score, they could not edge closer through two periods.
The Kings regained their three-goal margin when Brown beat Johnson with a snap shot with 7:38 remaining in regulation. Center Jarrett Stoll gained possession and fed Brown along the right boards.
Florek’s first NHL goal with 2:13 left provided the final score, with defenseman Johnny Boychuk and center Gregory Campbell drawing assists. Florek was recalled from Boston’s AHL Providence affiliate Monday on an emergency basis, and Thursday was his second game.
Carter began the scoring with his team-leading 15th goal of the season at 10:32 of the opening period. Boychuk turned over the puck deep in his own zone, where Kings forward Anze Kopitar took possession and fed Carter. A first attempt was stopped by Rask, but it rebounded directly back to Carter, and he converted a wrist shot.
Johnson stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced.
NOTES: Boston scratched LW Shawn Thornton, RW Jordan Caron and D Kevan Miller. … The Bruins wind up their three-game West Coast road trip Saturday with a visit to San Jose. … Due to the recent rash of injuries to hit the club, six Boston players made their NHL debut this season, the most in any season since 2006-07. … Los Angeles did not dress D Matt Greene, LW Tanner Pearson and RW Jordan Nolan. … Kings RW Justin Williams played in his 800th NHL game. Williams is in his sixth seasons in Los Angeles and is the current team leader in consecutive games played (175). … Los Angeles LW Dwight King and RW Tyler Toffoli both have nine-game goalless streaks. The pair last scored in a 4-1 victory over San Jose on Dec. 19.