LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was almost like old times as Los Angeles Kings winger Johnny Brodzinski and Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad shared the ice again.
They were linemates from youth hockey all the way through Blaine High School in Minnesota. They were opponents this time when Brodzinski scored his first NHL goal to help lead the Kings to a 4-0 win over the Panthers on Saturday.
Brodzinski scored on a backhander at 2:23 of the third to beat James Reimer top shelf.
“It was a great feeling,” Brodzinski said. “Getting a few shots every game, not a lot of grade-As, but finally found a little bit of (space) there in the slot and got one away.”
Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped 24 shots for the Kings for his eighth career shutout and first since Jan. 21, 2016, with Minnesota.
Los Angeles scored three goals in the third period to put away Florida and end a four-game losing streak. All those losses came at home after Los Angeles went 11-2-2 in its first 15 games.
Brodzinki’s goal started the third-period fireworks. It wasn’t how he figured he’d scored his first goal, either.
“I’ve imagined it in my mind for quite some time. I just thought it was always going to be a forehand shot,” Brodzinski said.
The Panthers had won their two previous games and didn’t imagine this result either, especially after they had 14 shots on goal in the first period.
Bjugstad was happy for his friend and planned to chat with him after the game.
“Would’ve rather had it happen against a different team at a different time, but congrats to Johnny,” Bjugstad said.
“His career has been good so far,” Bjugstad added. “His college career was awesome. The sky is the limit for him if he keeps going. Super nice kid.”
Tyler Toffoli scored at 8:14 of the first period on a delayed penalty, beating Reimer for a tap-in goal, his ninth of the season. Alex Iafallo battled to protect the puck behind the net to help set up the goal, and Drew Doughty made a nice pass to Toffoli. Dustin Brown also assisted.
Andy Andreoff scored from in front of the net, putting the puck between Reimer’s legs with 4:41 remaining. Trevor Lewis added an empty-netter for the fourth goal.
The Panthers struggled on the power play as they couldn’t convert on either of their two opportunities. They’ve scored two power play goals in their last 17 chances.
Brodzinski was struggling to find a rhythm and was sent down to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League to figure things out, and he was back in short order.
“He never seemed to take a step forward until he went back to the minors,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “He went back and really seemed to get his game in order. He started to play with the pace he can play with. He’s a lot more confident young man. You do the work and the prep and the confidence comes with it. That was a big-time play he made but kind of what we we thought Johnny was capable of, so it was good to see.”
And then there was a reunion on the ice for Brodzinski and Bjugstad.
Asked if he now has bragging rights, Brodzinski said, “I guess. But he’s got a few more than me this year, so I’ve to catch up.”
NOTES: Panthers RW Radim Vrbata left the game during his first shift after getting hit in the face by a puck. He was holding a towel over his face to control the blood and was assisted off the ice. He didn’t return and will be re-evaluated Sunday morning. … Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, the American League Rookie of the Year, attended the game. There were cheers and boos when he was shown on the JumboTron. … The Panthers outshot the Kings 14-5 in the first period. … Kuemper made just his fourth start of the season as the Kings played the first of back-to-back games. … Kings C Nic Dowd was back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch the previous two games. He was called for two penalties, roughing and high-sticking. … Toffoli has a team-leading nine goals along with Anze Kopitar. … LW Jussi Jokinen has two assists in his first two games with the Kings since he was traded from Edmonton for Michael Cammalleri.
Panthers: Head down Interstate 5 to Anaheim to play the Ducks on Sunday in the second of back-to-back games.
Kings: Head to Las Vegas to play the Golden Knights on Sunday.
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