LOS ANGELES – Whodunnit? Khudobin did it.
Backed by Anton Khudobin’s 27 saves, including some sparklers in the second period when they clung perilously to a one-goal lead, the Bruins pinned an impressive 4-1 loss on the Kings Thursday night before a crowd of 18,230 at the Staples Center.
Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak staked the Bruins, now 2-1-0 on their road trip, to an early 2-1 lead, and Dominic Moore and David Krejci banged home empty-netters in the final 62 seconds.
“We needed to play the third period with what the Bruins have been know for through the years,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, who is now 5-1-0 since taking over the Boston bench from Claude Julien. “Tight defensive layers. Managed the puck well.”
After falling asleep in the second period after Pastrnak’s goal broke a 1-1 deadlock and allowing the Kings to roll up a 13-4 shot lead over the remainder of the period, the Bruins allowed the Kings a miserly three shots on net over the final 20 minutes.
Without Khudobin’s work in the second period, which included a key stop on a Jeff Carter breakaway, the Bruins could have been run out of the building. It was a three-goal outburst by the Ducks in the second the night before that sent the Bruins to a 5-3 loss. But Khudobin was stout, winning for the third time this season, the second time under Cassidy’s leadership.
“It’s never an easy job, I am not saying that,” said the earnest Khudobin, a favorite among this teammates. “But they made my job easy in the third period.”
It was clear that Khudobin, shaky at times this season and possibly at risk of losing his job, has gained confidence over his last two starts.
“It’s always great, as I say, it’s always great when you are winning,” he said. “It always sucks when you are losing. No matter how you play, good or bad, you always want to win – it’s what you want your result to be. But confidence is good … but still need to keep working hard, because we need to win.”
Marchand opened the night’s scoring, the Bruins connecting for the first goal for the fifth time in the six games since Cassidy took over the Boston bench.
Marchand plucked the puck away from Jake Muzzin deep in the Boston end and bolted out for a 2-on-1 break with Patrice Bergeron, with only Kevin Gravel back for the Kings. Spotting the near side open on goalie Peter Budaj, the sharp-eyed Marchand picked a spot halfway up the right post for his team-high 26th goal of the season.
Marchand, who had a career-high 37 goals last season, now has 16 goals in his last 20 games, the most prolific stretch of his career.
The Bruins have scored first in all three games of the road trip (San Jose, Anaheim, and LA) which wraps up with a matinee Sunday in Dallas. The finished 2-1-0 on their California swing, after going 1-8-0 in their previous three seasons out here.
The Kings, fighting to get themselves in playoff contention in the West, knotted it, 1-1, with 1:48 remaining in the first on a power play (Dominic Moore off for tripping). Gravel, burned earlier on the Marchand goal, knocked home the easy forehander after Adrian Kempe dished across a fat rebound.
It was Gravel’s first career goal. Only 45 seconds later, it appeared Peter Cehlarik had his first career goal. Indeed, the puck was in net, but LA coach Darryl Sutter immediately called for a video review, suspecting the Bruins were offside on the scoring play. The tape proved Sutter to be correct. David Pastrnak, in a scrum along the right wing wall, was roughly a foot over the blue line before the puck made its way into the offensive zone.
The Bruins finally made a second goal stick on the board at 4:43 of the second period, Pastrnak connecting with a stick-shattering one-timer from the left wing circle. The puck zipped through the pads of Budaj, who might have been befuddled that the shot didn’t come in at full force.
Pastrnak, with 25 goals in his previous two season, had his 26th this season, tying him with Marchand for the team lead.
After taking the lead, the Bruins fell into a deep, dangerous sleep. Had it not been for Khudobin’s sharp work in net, it easily could have been over for the Black-and-Gold after 40 minutes.
“He seems to be finding his game,” said Cassidy. “That’s two in a row he’s given us a chance to win. That’s what you want out of your goaltending — listen, we are like every other team, we need good goaltending to prosper and we got it tonight.”
Two of Khudobin’s best stops came at 9:30 and 9:37, the Kings working on a power play. He first turned back a Dustin Brown wrister from the slot, then stifled a Brayden McNabb tee shot off the left point.
But the best of the bunch came with 4:29 left in the second when Jeff Carter took a cross-ice pass and bolted in on right wing, slipping behind the long reach of captain Zdeno Chara. Tumbling to the ice on Chara’s slash, Carter tried to beat Khudobin with a backhand stuff, but Khudobin cut it down with a pad save.