TORONTO — After the Kings made the most of their sagging energy by playing a smart, simple game on the second night of a back-to-back sequence, after they won the third period against the Maple Leafs to pull out a 3-1 victory Wednesday that extended their winning streak to five and their road points streak to 7-0-2, the only remaining question was how good they might be.
Defenseman Drew Doughty saw no reason to wonder.
"I know how good we are," he said. "It's not a question."
It's difficult to argue at the moment.
Rookie goaltender Martin Jones stopped 38 shots — including seven by James van Riemsdyk and six by David Clarkson — to win his fourth straight start and prevail over former King Jonathan Bernier. Jones' shutout streak ended at 177 minutes 16 seconds, when defenseman Cody Franson snapped a shot past him during a five-on-three Toronto advantage at 14:30 of the second period, but that was all the Kings' stalwart defense gave up in holding an opponent without a first-period goal for the 17th straight time and limiting their opponent to two goals or fewer for the 17th straight time.
The Kings are 12-1-4 in that span, most of it since they lost 2012 Stanley Cup most valuable player Jonathan Quick to a groin injury. First Ben Scrivens and more recently Jones have come up with clutch performances. These are the Kings, remember, who for decades couldn't produce one top-notch goalie and now appear to have a wealth of good, young netminders.
"They've been great all year," said winger Kyle Clifford, who scored an insurance goal with 1:59 left in the third period on a nice setup from Tyler Toffoli. "Joner came up huge tonight."
Watching Jones blank the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday and repeatedly frustrate the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center on Wednesday was surreal — to everyone but Jones.
"Honestly, I try and not think about it too much," said Jones, who has stopped 111 of 114 shots in four games, a .974 save percentage. "Just be ready when I'm called upon to play, and try and get these guys a win."
The Maple Leafs outshot the Kings in each period, and 39-23 overall, but the Kings had more resilience and depth. They needed it, after fourth-line center Colin Fraser left the game in the second period after a hard hit by Toronto winger Frazer McLaren. Coach Darryl Sutter said afterward Fraser "had his bell rung" and will be monitored closely.
Doughty gave the Kings a 1-0 lead at 10:30 of the first period, moving in deep on the right side during a power play. Seeing a lane open, he used Toffoli as a screen and lifted a shot past Bernier. "Doughty made a great play," Bernier said. "He faked everyone and kind of hold it, hold it and went against the screen and it was a great shot."
Franson brought Toronto even in the second period on the first two-man advantage goal the Kings have yielded this season, but Jones didn't falter when his shutout streak ended.
"I don't think that fazed him. He knows what he's got to do," Clifford said. "Obviously, we would have liked to keep it going, but he's a levelheaded guy in there and he keeps his poise really well."
Jones kept them even until Jeff Carter capitalized on an odd-man rush at 9:40 of the third period. Bernier had seen that before, but not as the victim.
"You give him a few two-on-ones that we gave, at one point he's going to get a pretty good chance to put it in the back of the net," Bernier said.
Carter didn't miss that one. "Jeff's got to score for us. Hopefully he's getting in that groove again," Sutter said.
Clifford's goal sent the Kings happily into a scheduled day off on Thursday. Doughty called the game "our worst we probably played as a team in a little while," but their resolve overcame that.
"We've put ourselves on a good defensive game," he said. "We'd like to score a little more offensively, but defense is always first on our minds. We're the hardest-working team defensively and that's why we don't give up much."
And why they've gained so much, so far.
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