LOS ANGELES (AP)Erik Haula, Nikita Okhotiuk and Ryan Graves scored in the second period, and the New Jersey Devils became the first NHL team to win 17 of its first 20 road games by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Saturday night.
Tomas Tatar had a power-play goal, Jesper Bratt scored an empty-netter and Jack Hughes had two assists as the surprising Devils improved to 17-2-1 on the road, including six straight wins. Mackenzie Blackwood made 34 saves, stopping a penalty shot by Kevin Fiala in the third period.
”It was like a week or two ago when (Devils coach) Lindy (Ruff) kind of put our home record and away record on the board. And that’s honestly probably the first time we realized that it was that,” Haula said. ”We’re doing a good job right now of just moving to the next team and trying to play our best game.”
Fiala and Anze Kopitar scored on the power play, but Jonathan Quick allowed four goals on 27 shots and the Kings had their three-game winning streak snapped.
”I think it was disappointing that we didn’t score on our chances,” Los Angeles forward Adrian Kempe said. ”Power play was good. We didn’t get enough 5-on-5, I guess, and that’s a different type of frustration tonight.”
The Devils broke the game open with three goals in the second after both teams found the back on the net on the power play in the first.
”I think we could say that we got away with the first a little bit,” said Haula, who scored on a 2-on-1 rush 2:37 into the period to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead. ”They put us on our heels, and Blackie was fantastic today. So we came in here 1-1, and then we just figured it out.”
Kopitar tied it at 6:48 by tipping Drew Doughty’s shot from the blue line, but the Devils regained the lead 52 seconds later when Okhotiuk beat Quick under his right blocker on a long shot.
Graves made it 4-2 with 9:03 to go when his shot from the left point took an unexpected redirect off the skate of defenseman Sean Walker.
”Every point counts,” Blackwood said. ”Looking back at the end of a season, once you’ve gotten there, you say, `Oh, we should have had these two or these two.’ But you never know which game it’s going to be that can make the difference to get in, so every point, every two points matters.”
Ruff is no stranger to success on the road. His 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres were one of five teams in league history to win 15 of their first 19 road games, a mark Ruff’s Devils surpassed with their 6-2 victory at Anaheim on Friday.
”I can’t explain it,” Ruff said. ”You know, we’re finding ways to win, and I think that every team, every coach knows you’re going to have to win games in different ways. … I think our game, our detail to our game has been better on the road. We’ve managed the puck better on the road. I think sometimes at home there’s a tendency to be a little bit more flashy, and some of our puck play has hurt us.”
Buffalo ended up going 25-12-4 on the road in 2006-07 and winning the Presidents’ Trophy before losing to Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Finals.
HOME SWEET HOME
Kopitar scored his 200th career goal on home ice, becoming the fourth player in franchise history to do so. He joined Luc Robitaille, who leads the Kings with 322 goals at home, Marcel Dionne (288) and Dave Taylor (233).
Devils: At San Jose on Monday.
Kings: Host Dallas on Thursday night.
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