LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jhonas Enroth has spent most of his NHL career playing behind star goalies. With just a few chances to shine so far for the Los Angeles Kings, the more-than-capable backup is making all the big stops.
Enroth stayed unbeaten in a Kings uniform with 31 saves, and Los Angeles beat the New York Islanders, 2-1, on Thursday night for its 10th victory in 13 games.
Drew Doughty and Milan Lucic scored for the first-place Kings, who put on another strong defensive performance in front of their Swedish backup goalie, who made a solid home debut more than five weeks into the regular season.
Enroth has yielded only two goals in his first three starts in place of Jonathan Quick, compiling a .979 save percentage. But Quick had started eight of the Kings’ last nine games, and Enroth hadn’t played since Nov. 3.
“I’ve got to stay sharp in practice, but I know how to do that by now,” said Enroth, who began his NHL career in Buffalo behind Ryan Miller. “I’ve been around this situation long enough that I’m used to it, unfortunately. It’s definitely a tough craft to manage, but these three games have gone pretty well for me.”
Enroth was outstanding during a prolonged third-period penalty kill for Los Angeles, which has won 10 of 13 meetings with the Islanders since the 2006-07 season.
Enroth was helped by fellow newcomer Lucic, who had one of his most productive games for his new team. The power forward scored his fourth goal when the puck hopped curiously through the Islanders’ crease after Lucic barely touched it, and he set a big screen for Doughty’s first-period goal.
“They really put the pressure on us in the last period, but we played a lot better in the defensive zone, breaking out the puck,” Lucic said. “(Enroth) had another huge game for us. He’s probably the biggest reason why we won.”
The Kings extended their run of early-season success, a rarity for a team that won its two recent Stanley Cup championships with playoff poise after unspectacular regular seasons. Los Angeles has one division title in franchise history and has finished higher than third only once since 2000.
“We need to put a string of wins together early,” Lucic said. “We’re in first place, but we want to have some separation there.”
Brock Nelson scored an early goal and Jaroslav Halak stopped 20 shots for the Islanders, who have lost six of eight. New York has scored more than two goals just once during that stretch, and the Isles were unable to generate plentiful chances against the disciplined Kings.
“It’s never fun when you can’t get a few goals in a game, but at the same time, you can’t dwell on that,” Nelson said. “I thought the energy and work ethic was pretty good.”
After Nelson put the Islanders ahead early with his fourth goal, Doughty pulled the Kings even on a power play with a big slap shot. The Norris Trophy finalist has two goals in three games after starting the season in a 13-game drought.
Lucic then got credit for a goal early in the second when he forced a turnover behind New York’s net. He shoved in front and got a piece of a puck that went off Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk and over Halak’s pad.
Los Angeles killed off a two-man disadvantage for 45 seconds early in the third period. The Islanders’ power play went 0 for 3, extending its 1-for-16 slump in the last six games.
“We had a couple of good looks and hit two or three posts in the third period,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “We tried to throw everything we had at them in the third, and it’s frustrating when they’re not going in.”
NOTES: The Kings have scored a power-play goal in five straight games, their longest streak since December 2014. … Doughty passed Lubomir Visnovsky for third place in Kings history among defensemen with his 32nd power-play goal. … Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter hasn’t made a goalie change during a game this season. … The Islanders’ three-game California road trip ends Friday in Anaheim.
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