EDMONTON — The Los Angeles Kings needed to shed some rust heading into the playoffs and the Edmonton Oilers proved to be a perfect solution.
Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist and Martin Jones made just 17 saves to record his fourth shutout of the season as the Kings snapped a three-game losing skid with a 3-0 victory over the lowly Oilers on Thursday.
“After coming off a bad start (Wednesday) night we talked about having to be ready to play from the start and we did,” Gaborik said. “We got up 1-0 quickly and that for sure helped us. I thought we controlled the game all 60 minutes.”
Anze Kopitar also scored for the Kings (46-28-7), who had won just one of their previous five games.
“We wanted to have a good start and obviously scoring in the first minute helps,” Kopitar said of his goal just 27 seconds in. “After that, we were pressing pretty hard and had some pretty good offensive zone time and brought the game home pretty well with no stress in the end and that’s what you want. Right now we just want to sharpen our game for pretty much a week from now so we’re ready to go in the playoffs.”
Los Angeles has already clinched third in the Pacific Division and will play the second-place San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
The Oilers (28-44-9) have lost two in a row and have now been shut out 10 times this season, seven of those coming on home ice.
“Tonight was a really disappointing effort on all fronts except for goaltending,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. “By no means is a good effort in our last game going to make up for the 82 games that we have played, but it would certainly be better than going out on a bad note. If we had to leave the season after a game like tonight’s, that would leave a bit of a sting.”
The loss dropped Edmonton back into 29th place in the NHL, a point back of the Florida Panthers, who defeated Toronto 4-2 on the night.
“It is a bit of a wakeup call,” said Oilers forward David Perron of the shutout loss. “Everyone was happy with the way we had been playing over the last few games and it is a reminder that there is a lot of work to be done and that we had all put a lot of work in over the summer to get ready individually.”
It didn’t take the Kings long to start the scoring, going up 1-0 on the game’s first shot 27 seconds into the first period. Justin Williams threw a pass in front of the Oilers net and it hit the stick of an Oilers defender before ending up in front for Kopitar, who sent his 200th career NHL goal past Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth.
“You can’t give a Stanley Cup contender a lead that early,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Our top line was on the ice and it was a really easy assignment there and it was in our net. That can’t happen.”
The Kings went up by a pair nine minutes into the first period. Willie Mitchell flubbed a shot from the point but it ended up right on the stick of Gaborik, who beat Fasth for his 10th goal of the season in his 40th game.
Los Angeles almost padded its lead with three minutes left in the first, but a Jarret Stoll power-play shot clanged off the post.
The Kings had 11 first-period shots, while Edmonton only managed four on Jones.
Edmonton had its first real scoring chance of the game minutes into the second period when Perron circled the net and had Jones going the wrong way, but the Kings goalie recovered in time to make a huge diving save on Hall.
Los Angeles got a gift goal with six minutes to play in the second period as Gaborik took a wrist shot just across the blue-line that Fasth only got a piece of before it caromed into the net.
It appeared that Gaborik had his hat trick on a power play with six minutes to play in the third, however, the goal was called back due to goaltender interference by Williams.
The Kings outshot Edmonton 48-17 in the game and 23-3 in the third period.
Both teams close out the regular season on Saturday as the Oilers play host to the Vancouver Canucks in the final game for both clubs, while the Kings return home for their final pre-playoff tune-up against the Anaheim Ducks.