GREG BEACHAM, AP Hockey Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — After so many nights of offensive struggle this season, the Los Angeles Kings scored on their opening shift and never let up on the woeful Colorado Avalanche.
Jeff Carter scored two goals and Peter Budaj earned his sixth shutout of the season in the Kings’ fourth consecutive victory, 5-0 over Colorado on Wednesday night.
Marian Gaborik scored 47 seconds into Los Angeles’ three-goal first period, and Dustin Brown and Dwight King added third-period goals in the Kings’ first win in four tries over the Avalanche, who have lost nine straight.
“Focusing on our start, we get a goal the first shift, (and) it goes a long way,” Brown said. “The team we’re playing, the situation they’re in, you have to jump on them early, not let them hang around. We did that in the first and carried it through.”
Budaj made 22 saves in the longtime Avalanche goalie’s 17th career shutout for Los Angeles, which has ramped up its playoff push with back-to-back victories after hosting the All-Star Game. The Kings also won two road games before the break, and Budaj was in net for all four games, including two shutouts.
“You can see the standings — it’s a tight race,” Budaj said. “Everybody keeps winning. It seems like nobody is losing points, so we’re doing the best we can. It’s a big win for us so we can start the (road) trip off on the right foot.”
Spencer Martin stopped 35 shots in the 21-year-old prospect’s third appearance for the league-worst Avalanche, who have lost 19 of 21. The break did little for Colorado, which struggled through back-to-back blowout losses in Southern California by a combined 10-1.
“It’s a young group overall, and it’s a tough experience,” said 39-year-old forward Jarome Iginla, who had a possible goal disallowed in the second period. “It’s still fun to get out there, but hockey-wise it’s a tough experience to go through. (We’re) not finding enough ways to win games, and tough for the overall confidence. But to the group, you’ve got to work at it daily, to keep trying to get better. Never quit.”
Carter secured the eighth 25-goal season of his 12-year NHL career with his first goal, and his 26th put him second in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby. The Kings’ power forward is responsible for a higher percentage of his team’s goals than any NHL player this season, but his low-scoring teammates gave him plenty of support this time.
“It’s pretty disappointing letting in three goals early like that,” Martin said. “I try to take something from every game, and from this game I felt like overall I was able to put it behind me and play better in the second. But still, you have to be better.”
Brown scored on a deflection of a shot by defenseman Kevin Gravel, who got his first point in 19 games since Dec. 10. King then ended his 26-game goal drought since Dec. 1 from well behind Colorado’s net, getting a wacky deflection off Eric Gelinas’ skate.
Avalanche forward Rene Bourque left in the opening minutes after receiving a heavy hit near the benches from Los Angeles defenseman Brayden McNabb, who wasn’t penalized for it. John Mitchell got an instigator penalty for starting an ensuing fight with McNabb.
Kings forward Jordan Nolan then went to the dressing room in the second period with a lower-body injury.
NOTES: Longtime Kings announcer Bob Miller returned home Wednesday after being hospitalized following a mild stroke during All-Star weekend. The Staples Center crowd chanted “Get well, Bob!” during the second period. … Kings captain Anze Kopitar took a minor penalty, giving him 18 penalty minutes this season. That’s more than he accumulated in all of last season, when he won the Lady Byng Trophy. …. Kings All-Star D Drew Doughty had an assist in his sixth straight game, extending the longest streak of his nine-year NHL career.
Avalanche: Host Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
Kings: At Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
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