The Kings had never swept a four-game road trip before Tuesday, but managed to seal the deal against another Western Conference opponent in Nashville.
Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves on a night when the Predators outshot the Kings 32-18. Bernier improved to 4-1-0 against the Predators. He’s never faced another team more often in his young career, and Terry Murray will keep calling his number against Nashville so long as this continues.
“He worked hard to find the puck,” Murray said of Bernier. “He was really on top of the crease square, and absorbed a lot of those pucks. Strong game.”
“I think it’s just the type of team that gives me a lot of action, keeps me in the game,” Bernier said, and that was certainly true Tuesday. The Kings made more mistakes than Nashville — Murray couldn’t be happy with his team’s 17 giveaways — but also took advantage of their opponents’ miscues.
Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez, Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Brown scored goals, the latter coming into an empty net with 1:02 left in the game.
Long Beach native Jonathon Blum scored the Preds’ only goal, a long blast that deflected off a Kings player (it looked on TV like Jack Johnson) in front of the net and tied the game 1-1. It was the second goal of Blum’s 12-game career.
Some notes and observations:
The Kings’ first goal was an ugly play turned pretty, and another reason why Murray isn’t breaking up the first line. Dustin Penner didn’t bother to look when he recovered the puck –after the Kings lost a faceoff– behind the Preds net, before passing to the side of the net. Whether he knew Kopitar would be there, or Kopitar knew the pass was coming, it certainly gave the appearance of telepathy. In the interest of fairness, there was another sequence early in the second period in which the line had an odd-man rush but couldn’t covert when the final pass was off a bit. But Kopitar, and often Williams, have seemed more energized since Penner’s arrival.
The Kings were briefly one point out of first place in the Pacific Division before San Jose beat Dallas, 6-3. They’re still fourth in the West, three points behind the Sharks, and have played one fewer game than the Sharks.
Joel Ward was scratched with a lower-body injury after the warmup. It was the lead topic of discussion in Barry Trotz’s postgame scrum, which might seem strange except for the fact that Ward has been the Predators’ hottest player of late. The veteran checking-line forward has one goal in his last three games and an assist in his last two. Ward’s replacement, J-P Dumont, scored the Predators’ second goal.
The last time the Kings tried to close out a lengthy road trip with a win, they suffered a forgettable 3-0 loss to the Islanders. The fact that they never trailed in Nashville with a home game coming in two days wasn’t lost on the Kings. “I think we’ve learned from the last long road trip, where we went to Long Island and everybody was kind of ready to go home,” Kopitar said. “Tonight, we’re not ready to go home but I think the approach was totally different than on Long Island.”