Clifford, Bernier Lead LA Kings Past Columbus 2-1
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kyle Clifford opened the scoring late in the second period, Jonathan Bernier made 12 saves and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Friday night for the defending Stanley Cup champions’ first regulation win at home this season.
Mike Richards scored during a two-man advantage in the third period for the Kings, who climbed over Columbus and out of last place in the Western Conference with their second straight victory.
Although Nick Foligno erased the shutout bid with 2:25 to play, Bernier largely shut down Columbus’ punchless offense and even picked up his second career assist in his second straight victory in place of Jonathan Quick.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 20 shots for the NHL-worst Blue Jackets, who opened a six-game trip with their fourth loss in five games.
In his first back-to-back starts since January 2011, Bernier kept the Kings firmly in control for most of their second win over Columbus in 11 days. Los Angeles returned from a five-game trip for their only Staples Center appearance in a nine-game stretch over the first three weeks of February.
After scoring six goals against San Jose on Monday, the Blue Jackets’ offense vanished again in their first outing since firing general manager Scott Howson on Tuesday. President of hockey operations John Davidson replaced Howson with Jarmo Kekalainen, but the first European GM in NHL history won’t join Columbus for a few more days while working out visa issues back in Finland.
Defenseman Jack Johnson had an assist in his first game in Los Angeles since the Kings traded him to Columbus last February for Jeff Carter, whose arrival kick-started the Kings’ late surge into the playoffs and on to their first NHL title.
The rough schedule has hurt Los Angeles’ attempt to rediscover last spring’s form, and so have serious injuries for half of last season’s blue line: defensemen Alec Martinez, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell all are out of the lineup.
After a quiet first period, Columbus had multiple scoring chances on power plays in the second. Clifford finally opened the scoring with his first goal in 10 games with 80 seconds left in the period, taking the puck from Nikita Nikitin at mid-ice and wiring a wrist shot past Bobrovsky.
Los Angeles finally had a lead at home for the first time all season, and Richards added to it early in the third period when his centering pass deflected into the net while Carter roared through the crease.
Foligno ended Bernier’s shutout late with a rebound goal in front of the net, but Columbus couldn’t equalize during a lengthy stretch of empty-net play.
NOTES: Columbus D Adrian Aucoin returned from a six-game absence with a lower-body injury, but D James Wisniewski stayed home with his wife for the birth of their first child, and D John Moore sat out his fifth straight game despite being available to return from a lower-body injury. … D Keaton Ellerby played his first home game for the Kings, who acquired him from Florida one week earlier. He partnered with former Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, a minus-10 with no goals in Los Angeles’ first 11 games. … Kings D Slava Voynov is from Chelyabinsk, Russia, where an exploding meteor injured more than 1,000 people Friday. Voynov checked in by phone with several friends who were all safe.