The Los Angeles Kings may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the NHL Playoffs, but thanks to a 2-0 shutout against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, the Kings still have a pulse with a dozen games left in the season.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a paltry seven-game homestand that saw the two-time Stanley Cup Champions go 4-2-1 during a time they need to win every game.
Jarome Iginla and rookie Adrian Kempe scored in the third period, and Jonathan Quick earned his first shutout of the season on Thursday night, but the two teams the Kings are chasing for the final NHL Wild Card spots in the Western Conference also won, prompting the question: is it too little, too late for the L.A. Kings?
The Kings haven't given up on their playoff hopes despite sitting four points behind St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Back-to-back losses earlier in the week, including a 3-1 loss to the Blues , allowed St. Louis to surge ahead with just 11 games to play, but the Kings have enough games left against their playoff rivals to keep them in the thick of the race — with a lengthy winning surge, of course.
"It's that time of year, right?" asked Dustin Brown, who had two assists. "We've just got to find ways to grind points out."
After getting two late goals as a reward for grinding through two scoreless periods, Los Angeles still failed to gain postseason ground with its latest blanking of Buffalo, since the Blues won 4-1 at San Jose at the same time.
In his 43rd career shutout, Quick made 26 saves while shutting out the Sabres for the third time in eight career appearances against Buffalo. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has allowed more than two goals just once in seven starts since returning from a 4 1/2-month injury absence.
Robin Lehner stopped 34 shots for the Sabres, who have lost six of seven and 10 of 12. Buffalo was shut out for the first time since Nov. 7 at Boston .
The Sabres are getting used to this fate at Staples Center: Their last four games in downtown LA have ended in 2-0 losses.
Buffalo hasn't scored a road goal against the Kings in more than 263 minutes of play.
"It was a game exactly like we thought it was going to be," Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was going to be a hard-fought game. It was going to be a battle for every inch of ice. We were in that battle. It's just a sign of how tough it is against a playoff-caliber team."
Iginla connected 36 seconds into the third for his 622nd career goal on a slick pass across the crease from Anze Kopitar. The goal was Iginla's third in seven games with the Kings, who acquired the 39-year-old veteran from Colorado two weeks ago for the playoff push.
"Coming to a new team, you definitely want to find ways to help out," Iginla said. "I've got a great shot here. I'm going to keep working at it. There's room for improvement, but it feels good."
Kempe then got his second career goal with 5:20 to play, beating Lehner from a tough angle after Brown kept the play alive.
The Sabres lost 4-1 at San Jose on Tuesday in the opener of a four-game road trip that includes all three California clubs. Buffalo is wrapping up what's almost certain to be its sixth consecutive non-playoff season.
The Kings have a chance to gain ground on two teams in front of them when they travel to Canada to face Calgary and Edmonton on Sunday and Monday.