NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — All the Los Angeles Kings needed to end a season-high four-game losing streak was a quick start, a solid performance in net from Peter Budaj and a few of those goals that have been so tough to come by.
Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson scored in the opening 1:46 of a three-goal first period, and the Kings won for the third time in eight games with a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
“Coming out in the first period like we did was big for us,” said Kopitar, who scored for only the second time in 19 games. “Getting the lead early and just sustaining pressure. Even when we didn’t score, we felt like we played pretty well. We still generated chances. Obviously getting the two points is huge.”
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez capped the big period with a goal in close and Budaj stopped 24 shots in his 21st win of the season. Jeff Carter had the primary assist on the first two goals.
“He was solid back there,” Kopitar said of Budaj. “He was making the saves that he saw. Too bad one squeaked by him. He made some huge saves and helped keep us in it on the 5-on-3. We’re going to need that going forward.”
Kyle Quincey scored in the third period for New Jersey, which has lost five straight at home.
“Right now we are not playing well enough to win at home and we know that’s something we have to do a better job of as we have quite a few home games here the second half of the season,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “I don’t think there is a rhythm or reason to it.”
Los Angeles was outstanding on special teams. Kopitar scored a power-play goal on the Kings’ first shot and New Jersey failed to capitalize on four power plays, including a two-man advantage for 1:44 midway through the first period.
After Budaj made a point-blank stop on Miles Wood on the opening shift, the Kings needed only nine seconds to take advantage of a holding penalty against Quincey.
After Carter won the faceoff, Kopitar got the puck back in the right circle and beat goaltender Cory Schneider for his fifth goal.
“Other than the goal scoring, I have no problem with Kopi’s game,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “He’s one of the best players in the league.”
Pearson got his 15th of the season 56 seconds later. He took a pass from Carter in front, outmuscled Devils defenseman Steven Santini and turned and fired a shot over Schneider’s glove.
Martinez got his seventh of the season at 16:15 by poking the rebound of Marian Gaborik’s shot into the net.
Budaj protected the lead the rest of the way, with his biggest save coming against Jacob Josefson shortly after Quincey scored.
Schneider, who missed the past two games because of illness, gave up all three goals in the first period. He was replaced in the second by Keith Kinkaid, who kept Los Angeles scoreless the rest of the night.
“It’s tough to go down 3-0 early and put your team in that spot,” said Schneider, who faced 12 shots. “Again, they all matter a lot right now so you can’t take a night off and have an off game.”
NOTES: Kopitar played in his 806th game, fifth-best in Kings history. … Sutter earned his 618th career win, moving into 12th place on the NHL list ahead of Jacques Lemaire. … Los Angeles RW Devon Setoguchi left the ice in the second period after being hit in the ear on a clearing pass. He returned in the third. … New Jersey is 1-6-1 in its last eight at home. It had won four of five overall coming into the game. … Los Angeles swept the two-game season series.
Kings: At Carolina on Thursday night in the fourth game of a five-game trip that will end in Arizona after the All-Star break.
Devils: Host Washington on Thursday night.