The Los Angeles Kings came to town Thursday night and quickly subjugated the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In front of a sparse, late arriving and listless crowd of 13,709, L.A. brained the Blue Jackets 4-1.
It didn’t have to be that way.
Columbus put 14 shots on goal in the opening period, most of which came in the first few minutes of play. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick lived up to his namesake, stopping shot after shot as the Jackets let loose a barrage from everywhere on the ice.
Steve Mason looked almost lonely standing down at his end of the ice, with nary a shot coming his way. This loneliness wouldn’t last forever.
Kings’ defenseman Matt Greene kicked off the scoring with a slapshot from just inside the blue line. There wasn’t much Mason could do as Greene cashed in on his second score of the season.
“The game plan at the start was perfect,” noticeably somber Blue Jackets’ coach Ken Hitchcock said after the game. “Everybody was competing. As soon as we got scored on we lost our energy and stopped playing the right way.”
Los Angeles struck again at the 15:46 mark of the second period.
This time, it was Kings’ star Anze Kopitar, who delivered a routine wrister from the right circle that Mason was unable to get a glove on. It was his 21st goal of the season. Fellow forwards Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmons assisted on the play.
As the third period unfolded, Blue Jackets’ fans were subjected to more of the same.
This time it was Smyth who benefited from the defensive breakdowns.
He set up shop in front of the Columbus goal and was seemingly invisible to the Jackets’ defenders, who left him uncovered. Kings captain Dustin Brown put a pass right on Smyth’s stick who quickly deposited the puck in the net.
It would only get worse.
Columbus committed two hooking penalties seconds apart. The Kings wasted no time in converting the five-on-three power play opportunity as Kopitar struck again. With virtually no defense to speak of in front of him, he went top shelf on Mason and extended the Kings’ lead to 4-0.
Center Antoine Vermette of the Jackets managed to beat Quick for a goal midway through the third period to avoid the shutout.
There were few remaining on hand to see it.
“It’s tough,” Columbus captain Rick Nash said of the loss. “As a team it just wasn’t good enough. We’re not consistent enough as a team for 60 minutes. There are no excuses.”