LOS ANGELES – The Bruins swashbuckled their way out of the Staples Center Thursday night after a 4-1 win over the Kings, rushed to board their charter flight to Dallas, and will wrap up their four-game road trip there with a Sunday matinee (12:30 p.m., NBC) vs the Stars.
Their game reinvigorated under new coach Bruce Cassidy (5-1-0), the Bruins wrapped up their three-stop California tour with a 2-1 record, a vast improvement over their recent Golden State woes, which saw them go an anemic 1-8-0 over three years’ worth of stops in San Jose, Anaheim, and LA.
Despite the uptick, the Bruins landed in Dallas still on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Had they pinched a point out of their game vs. the Ducks on Wednesday (a 5-3 loss), they would have left LA slotted third in the Atlantic Division. Instead, they ranked ninth in the conference, otherwise known as first place in the Land of Broken Promises.
Beyond the simple pleasure of taking two points out of LA, perhaps the most encouraging development there was Anton Khudobin’s stellar work as backup goalie. Khudobin turned back 27 shots, including 15 in the second period, and perhaps secured his spot on the roster.
General manager Don Sweeney made clear his feelings earlier in the week that Boston’s backup goaltenders have struggled. With Wednesday’s trade deadline approaching, Sweeney added that he could be encouraged to deal for help at No. 2 goalie, unless Khudobin’s game here had him think otherwise. The win over the Kings could have Sweeney thinking about shoring up other spots instead.
“We had our share of breakdowns, no doubt, and he was there for us,” said Cassidy, noting Khudobin’s handiwork when the Bruins lapsed badly in the second period. “Again, that’s what you want and he responded very well. It’s good for his confidence. He’s worked hard to find his game and, knock on wood, we’re turning the corner there.”
The added impact is that No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, whose game faded down the stretch the last two seasons with no reliable relief on the roster, can think of playing the month of March on proper rest.
“It’s been well documented that we don’t want to overuse our No. 1,” noted Cassidy. “So he got his night off [vs. the Kings] and we’ll go forward with Tuukka on Sunday. It’s also the mental part of it, not only physical. For this time of year, to know you don’t have to play, that you can get your rest. It’s always good when your backup wins.”
Rask is 28-14-4 and has won three of his last four starts. Khudobin is 3-5-1, with two of those wins coming in Cassidy’s brief tenure.
“I just have to focus day-by-day, to be honest,” said Khudobin. “They told me to play against LA, great. And if not, then you and work on your weakness, and your strong [points], too. Live day by day.”
By the numbers
A couple of stats for hockey analytics lovers to ponder:
■ In their six games under Cassidy, the Bruins have scored the opening goal five times. No surprise, then, that they also have enjoyed a whopping advantage in lead time over those five games: 227:31 to 29:34 – nearly an 8-to-1 advantage.
■ In the five weeks leading up to Claude Julien’s dismissal, the Bruins outshot their opponents in 15 straight games, by a margin of nearly 50 percent. Case in point, in Julien’s final game, a 6-5 loss to Toronto, the Bruins outshot the Leafs, 41-26.
In the six games under Cassidy, they have been outshot three times, including a 28-25 deficit Thursday night vs. the Kings. In their three games in California, the Bruins fired 171 shots and landed 82 of them on net. Their opponents shot 180 times, and hit the net with 83.
Follow Kevin Paul Dupont on Twitter at @GlobeKPD