LA Kings Columbus Blue Jackets

Credit: Ashley Landis / Associated Press

Day by day, we approach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and day by day, the points become more important for the LA Kings.

Going into Saturday’s game, the Kings were set to play only non-playoff teams for the remainder of the season, and that’s where you need to take advantage of your strength in the schedule. That’s exactly what they did last night.

Right from puck drop, the Kings controlled the game, scoring on their first shot of the game. Blake Lizotte had a nice chipped pass off of the boards to spring Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo on a 2-on-1.

Brown had the pass but opted for the shot and buried it.

After that, the Kings’ second-line did what they’ve done all season long and put on an absolute show filled with passing plays, and Phillip Danault got himself his 24th goal of the season.

In the second period, Matt Roy got hemmed in pretty badly and lost his inside positioning, which allowed Sean Kuraly to be unmarked and get himself a goal to bring the Blue Jackets within one goal.

However, neither team scored for the remainder of the game, and the Kings finished the night with a 2-1 victory. This win gave them their 40th victory on the season, and they now sit three points ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights. However, they have played one game more.

“We’re not a high-scoring team. We’re comfortable in one-score games, tight games. It felt like we were playing the type of game we needed to play,” head coach Todd McLellan said when asked about the game being low-scoring.

“It was awesome. Anytime you see the building packed like that, you see the fans into it, it’s a lot of fun. Those fans are going to be huge for us these last few games,” Andreas Athanasiou said on the Kings earning their third sell-out of the season.

Three takeaways:

1. Andreas Athanasiou back in the lineup

It’s been a rough season for Andreas Athanasiou. He’s been in and out of the lineup constantly as he’s battled illnesses and injuries and hasn’t really been able to get a consistent feel for the team.

Last night, he got back into action for the first time since March 10th, and he was slotted in on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe – pretty high expectations.

He had three shots on goal and played a season-high 18:54 time-on-ice, along with a 71.06 expected goals percentage (xG%).

“It feels good just to play hockey again and be out there with the guys and contribute, and we took care of business pretty good,” he told media in the post-game.

Athanasiou’s skating and speed will be a major positive factor for the team come playoff time.

2. Quick with a strong outing

As of late, goaltending hasn’t been great for the Kings, and the team is kind of just waiting for somebody to pull ahead and claim the starting job ahead of the playoffs.

While I don’t think either goaltender has it locked yet, Jonathan Quick took a step in the right direction with his performance last night.

Quick saved 21 of 22 shots, good for a .955 save percentage, and also had 1.51 GSAx.

I’d expect him to get the nod once again on Tuesday in Orange County.

3. Laying the body on the line

The Kings were sacrificing it all last night, as they finished the game with 26 blocked shots, a season-high, and the highest they’ve had in a single game since 2018, per the TV broadcast.

Alex Edler and Sean Durzi led the way with five blocked shots each. Matt Roy had four. Kopitar, Moore, Spence, and Moverare all had a pair of their own as well.

“It’s that time of year. If you’re not getting in the lane right now, there’s something wrong with you, because [it’s] desperate hockey,” Todd McLellan said.

(Main photo credit: Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

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