Kuemper, Kings shut out Panthers
LOS ANGELES — Darcy Kuemper is used to taking advantage of his limited opportunities.
The sixth-year goaltender has never been a full-time starter in the NHL and often goes long stretches between appearances.
He got his fourth start of the season on Saturday afternoon and made 24 saves to help the Los Angeles Kings end a five-game home losing streak with a 4-0 victory against the Florida Panthers at Staples Center.
Kuemper improved 3-0-1 while starting in place of Jonathan Quick, who had gotten the nod in each of the past five games and is expected to be in net Sunday at the Vegas Golden Knights.
Kuemper recorded his eighth career shutout and first since a 3-0 victory against the Kings at Staples Center on Jan. 21, 2016, when he ended a five-game losing streak for the Minnesota Wild.
“He looked like he was really dialed in,” Kings coach John Stevens said.
Jonny Brodzinski scored his first NHL goal to give the Kings (12-6-2) a 2-0 cushion at 2:23 of the third period.
Tyler Toffoli scored during a delayed penalty at 8:14 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Andy Andreoff netted his first of the season to make it 3-0 and Trevor Lewis scored into an empty net with 2:53 remaining.
Florida (7-10-2) started backup goalie James Reimer, who made 16 saves in his fifth straight loss. Reimer had been pulled in two of his past three starts, giving up 11 goals on 59 shots in those games for an .814 save percentage.
Florida came in allowing the most shot on goal attempts per game in the NHL at 36.6, but the Kings were outshot 13-2 through the first 18 1/2 minutes of the first period before finishing with a 14-5 disadvantage.
That didn’t prevent Los Angeles from taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Kings forward Alex Iafallo was protecting the puck from Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad behind the net when he drew a holding penalty.
Toffoli came on the ice for Kuemper and Iafallo sent the puck out to Dustin Brown, who passed to Drew Doughty just above the goal line. Doughty spotted Toffoli cutting down the middle and centered a pass that Toffoli redirected into the net for his ninth goal of the season, tying Anze Kopitar for the team lead.
The Panthers were outshot 3-0 the final 94 seconds of the first period and 6-0 the first 12 minutes of the second, but the Kings only managed seven shots themselves and could not add to their lead.
“There wasn’t a lot of room either way, it was tough going,” Florida coach Bob Boughner said. “These are the nights when you need your secondary scoring.”
Brodzinski, who was recalled from Ontario of the American Hockey League on Thursday, took possession of the puck above the left circle and skated between the hash marks. He sent a backhanded shot between Florida defensemen Mackenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen and high in the net.
“It’s not how I expected my first one to go in, but I’ll take it,” Brodzinski said. “I just always thought it would be a forehand.”
It was the type of skill that helped the 2013 fifth-round draft pick rise to become Ontario’s leading goal scorer last season while also experiencing six games with Los Angeles. He made the final roster out of training camp, but was sent down to Ontario for more polishing after three scoreless games.
“That was a big time play tonight, but it was kind of what we thought Jonny was capable of,” Stevens said.
Andreoff scored at 15:19, taking a pass alone in front of the net and having time to make a stick move on Reimer before beating him stickside.
“It comes down to the small battles, and how much you want to win those battles,” Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson said. “We needed to win more of them.”
NOTES: Florida RW Radim Vrbata exited after getting hit in mouth with the puck at 1:34 of the first period and did not return. Vrbata came in fifth on the team in scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight assists). ... Kings D Alec Martinez came in tied for the NHL lead with 56 blocked shots and his only block helped kill off Florida’s second power play in the second period. ... The Kings came in with the No. 1 penalty kill in the NHL at 89.7 percent. The unit went 2 for 2. ... Kings C Anze Kopitar had an assist to extend his career-long point streak to 11 games.