What a difference a year makes. After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015, the 2016 Los Angeles Kings became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. They did this on Saturday, March 19, 2016 by way of a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 18,373 at STAPLES Center in downtown Los Angeles. The victory also increased their lead in the Pacific division, to six points.
Against Boston, the Kings started strong, jumped out to an early lead and then were able to rely on terrific goaltending by Jonathan Quick. They outshot the Bruins 13-5 in the first period, while building a 1-0 lead on a goal from Tanner Pearson. In the final minute, Pearson got his stick on a slapshot by Luke Schenn, causing the puck to change directions and flutter past Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask, at 19:09.
The second period would be dominated by Boston, as they turned the tables and outshot the Kings 13-5. Fortunately, the Kings had already built a 2-0 lead on an Alec Martinez slapshot at 2:40. Boston finally got on the board when Tyler Randell scored at 5:46. From there, it was the Jonathan Quick show. The star Kings neminder made some truly unbelievable saves, as the Kings were outshot by a combined total of 23-7 over the course of the final two periods.
This was an important win, but there is a cloud hanging over it. After recently acquired Kings forward Kris Versteeg was hit in the foot by a slapshot early in the third period, he had trouble getting to the bench and then hobbled to the locker room. He did not return. Versteeg had been skating on the top line alongside Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic over the course of the last four games, all of which were victories.
Over the course of the four-game win streak, the Kings outscored the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins by a combined score of 16-6.
The Kings now embark on a road trip during which they will face the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets. This stretch of three road games in four nights, will begin on Monday, March 21. The Kings will return home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, March 26.
Pacific division playoff race: The Kings lead the division, with 93 points. The Anaheim Ducks trail them by six points and the San Jose Sharks trail by seven points. The Sharks and Kings have 11 regular season games remaining, while the Ducks have 12. The Ducks can close the gap to four points, with a victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, March 20.
March 19, 2016 – Final score: LA Kings 2, Boston Bruins 1. Final shots on goal: BOS 28, LAK 20. Power play: LAK 0/2, BOS 0/4. Three Stars of the game: 1) Jonathan Quick-LAK, 2) Brad Marchand-BOS, 3) Alec Martinez-LAK. Goaltenders: LAK-Jonathan Quick, BOS-Tuuka Rask.
Kings forward line combinations:
Kings defense pairings: