Michal Handzus made his debut at the IIHF World Championships for Slovakia on Sunday, playing a scoreless 20:33 and finishing plus-1 in his team’s 4-3 loss to Germany.
Germany took a 4-0 lead into the third period before goals by Ladislav Nagy, Josef Stumpel and Pavol Demitra scored over the final 14:34 to make it interesting.
Jonathan Bernier wasn’t in the lineup for Canada in their 9-1 thumping of France. James Reimer and Devan Dubnyk split the goaltending duties.
Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier was added to Team Canada’s roster at the IIHF World Championships, which began today in Slovakia without him.
Bernier was not among the 19 players — six defensemen, 11 forwards and two goalies — who helped Canada beat Belarus 4-1 in their first game of the tournament.
In fact, neither he nor Kings defenseman Jack Johnson have been added to the official rosters of Canada or the U.S., respectively.
You can follow the tournament in its entirety from the IIHF website.
Bernier, 22, most recently earned a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships (two games played, 1-1-0 record, 2.00 goals-against-average, .947 save percentage and one shutout) – one of four Kings to play for the team (Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds and Thomas Hickey). Bernier has also represented Canada at 2006 World U18 Championships and 2007 Super Series (best junior players from Canada and Russia competing); represented the QMJHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge in 2006; and he represented Team Canada Quebec at 2004 World U17 Hockey Challenge.
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:
Anze Kopitar’s second career hat trick paced the Kings to a needed win in Columbus.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 of 34 shots in a game that saw the Kings (38-25-5, 81 points) get outshot by the fading Blue Jackets (31-27-9) 34-22. He allowed only goals to Scottie Upshall and Derrick Brassard in a game the Kings never trailed.
Brassard’s goal at 11:30 of the third period brought the Jackets within 3-2, before Justin Williams scored his 22nd goal of the season at 18:26 off a give-and-go with Dustin Penner. The line of Kopitar (three goals, plus-2), Williams (goal, two assists, plus-1) and Penner (assist, plus-1) combined for four goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating.
A few more notes:
The Kings let one slip away.
In a game they led for all but 89 seconds, the Kings watched the Dallas Stars leap two points ahead of them in the standings on Brenden Morrow’s goal 38 seconds into overtime.
The blame was squarely pointed toward a power play that failed to convert four chances spanning 9:00 — including a three-minute major penalty after Steve Ott was penalized for spearing late in the first period.
“We need to re-focus, re-adjust — especially on the power play — and I think maybe just relax a little bit,” said Justin Williams, who had a goal and an assist. “We know we’re struggling on the power play but we need to relax out there I think a little bit with the man advantage and in turn make plays because there are a lot of guys that are really good with the puck and we need to execute that.”
Willie Mitchell and Kyle Clifford also scored goals for the Kings (36-25-5, 77 points), who got 18 saves from Jonathan Bernier. With the Kings up 3-2 at 5:20 of the third period, Bernier was burned for a short-handed goal by Jamie Benn, who stole the puck from Drew Doughty just inside the Kings blue line and skated the length of the ice before depositing the puck between Bernier’s legs.
Mike Ribeiro and Trevor Daley also scored for Dallas (36-23-7, 79 points).
The difference in the Kings’ last two games wasn’t Jonathan Bernier or Dustin Penner. It was astronomical.
That said, Jonathan Bernier’s 25 saves and Dustin Penner’s debut were the most memorable aspects of a game decided on Jarret Stoll’s power-play goal with 7:47 left in the third period.
For the first time in a while, Bernier had to flash a nervous smile and get political in the dressing room after the game. That’s the reward for posting a shutout immediately after a 7-4 loss: Questions about whether you want to be the starter.
“For me, it’s not something I focus on,” Bernier said. “Me and Quickie, we’re here to win some hockey games. Quickie’s our number one. He’s done a tremendous job for us.”
Nobody’s denying Quick’s resume. But neither can one ignore his six goals allowed Monday against Detroit – a team the Kings might have to face in the playoffs. Terry Murray didn’t ignore Quick’s last outing by starting Bernier on Thursday, and now the coach can’t just as easily ignore Bernier’s shutout. Murray would not tip his thinking when asked after the game if he was inclined to start Bernier against Dallas.
Penner didn’t score, but he was directly involved in the goal, and had some good cycle shifts with Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds (and Justin Williams, who took over for Simmonds at right wing in the third period). Penner’s only shot attempt was blocked, but he led the Kings with five hits.
A few more notes that won’t appear in tomorrow’s editions …
Dustin Penner attracted more than the usual share of media and fans to Toyota Sports Center on a Wednesday morning. Penner is the Kings’ new star attraction but, Terry Murray cautioned, “I’m not looking for him to be a savior of the franchise.”
Given the revolving-door history of Kopitar’s left wings, there will be pressure on Penner to perform – but not as much as he faced in Edmonton. That will be the focus of tomorrow’s story, recapping what was an otherwise uneventful day of practice. Here were the new forward lines:
Clifford goes to the fourth line by design; Murray said that he’s cognizant of the fact that the rookie hasn’t played more than 75 games in a season at the junior level. Clifford is at 59 now and Murray figures he will be more effective in energy-line minutes from here on out.
Jonathan Bernier will start in goal against the Phoenix Coyotes in light of Jonathan Quick’s subpar performance against Detroit on Monday.
“It has just about everything to do with the last game,” Murray said. “That’s how I make my decision. I’ve got to see performance. I’ll take a player out if he’s not performing, or having a really difficult day.”
If one point didn’t seem like enough Thursday night, Kings fans are officially spoiled.
Brandon Dubinsky’s wraparound goal with 3:08 left in the third period left the Kings trailing 3-2 at Madison Square Garden — a tall task to overcome for any team, especially one that wasn’t built to score in droves.
But Dustin Brown answered less than a minute later by coralling a Rob Scuderi shot off the end boards, then yanking the puck up and in past Henrik Lundqvist from behind the net.
When overtime began, a double-minor for high-sticking to forward Alexei Ponikarovsky gave the Rangers a 4-on-3 power play for the first four minutes. The Kings weathered that storm, too, and forced a shootout in a 3-3 game for the second straight night.
In the end, they were denied the extra point because starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier is not Jonathan Quick in the skills competition — at least not this season.
Alex Ovechkin – who else – scored on the Capitals’ first shot of the game. That was the extent of the damage, and after a sluggish first period, it was all Kings.
Rather than squeak out a victory by the skin of their teeth, the Kings scored four unanswered goals and denied the same quality chances on the other end. Anze Kopitar tied the game at 1 in the second period by scoring his first goal since Jan. 15, putting back the rebound of a Wayne Simmonds shot from close range.
Andrei Loktionov put back a rebound at the end of a 2-on-1 rush with Kyle Clifford at 3:36 of the third period to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. Michal Handzus whacked in another loose puck in Semyon Varlamov’s crease at 12:28 of the third, and Jarret Stoll flew up the right wing for a much prettier goal at 13:56.
Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves, buckling down after Ovechkin’s goal 66 seconds into the game.
Going back to Dec. 27, when the Kings first slipped into a 2-10 coma, they had only beaten one opponent by three or more goals (a 5-2 win over Edmonton on Jan. 15). Since Jan. 22, they’re 6-0-2 and now have a decisive win over a good team that was booed heartily by the announced crowd of 18,398 at the Verizon Center.
A few more notes:
Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s second-round shootout goal against Jonathan Bernier was the only puck that crossed the goal line in 65-plus minutes of hockey in St. Paul.
Bouchard’s backhand, five-hole beauty came immediately after Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom kicked up his leg — from his belly — to stop Jack Johnson’s shot on the other end. Backstrom stopped Dustin Brown in the third round to seal the win and send the Kings (27-22-2) to their first shootout loss all season.
Bernier was hardly to blame. He got some help from a goal frame en route to a 25-save performance, but made some timely saves and was able to swallow up the big rebounds when he needed to.
That was the encouraging part, along with another typical stingy defensive performance by the Kings, who have a point in four straight games. The Kings will play four back-to-back games this month (beginning tomorrow night in Edmonton), which means Bernier figures to be called upon often.