The Boston Bruins showed why they sit comfortably atop the NHL Thursday night, as the beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2.
A tight game, the Bruins' ability to capitalize on mistakes proved to be the difference in Los Angeles.
After Phil Danault opened the scoring in the first period, giving him points in eight of nine games. The Bruins' hit back in the second with goals just over two minutes apart. David Pastrnak found himself all alone in the slot and made no mistake. Then, Brad Marchand took advantage of a fortunate bounce to wire home a power-play goal past Pheonix Copley.
The Kings were able to tie the game at two after Sean Durzi hammered a one-timer past Jeremy Swayman's ear and into the net. Shortly after, Brendan Lemieux and Trent Frederic got their customary fight out of the way.
Heading into the third, it was a tight game with neither team holding a distinct advantage. But, the Bruins proved what separates the great teams from the good teams and buried the Kings with two goals 34 seconds apart.
The first came off a Trent Frederic tip, then Frederic deposited a nice feed from Nick Foligno. Just like that, the Kings were down two.
Boston then shut the door and didn't allow the Kings many chances before Pastrnak slid his second of the game into an empty net.
Despite the loss, the sentiment around the Kings room was positive. Or at least as positive as a locker room can get after a loss.
"It could have went either way I thought," said Phil Danault. "I thought we played really well, to be honest, it could have gone either way.
Todd McLellan had similar thoughts.
"I thought it was a game that was quite similar to the Dallas game," said McLellan. "I thought this one was faster, Dallas was a little more physical, I thought our group did a lot of good things. If you weren't at the game or didn't watch the game, you pick up the newspaper and read it tomorrow and you'll say 'oh well they lost 5-2,' but it was a pretty evenly matched game. Forty seconds in the third period, a pretty lucky one for them batting it out of the air, but the one after that was preventable. We made some mistakes and at the other end, I thought we had some opportunities. A breakaway and Kopi (Anze Kopitar) had a pretty good look and you don't get many against that team so those have to go in."
You can't take moral victories in the NHL, but that's not a loss the Kings should be hanging their heads over. Boston has been the best team in the NHL through the first half and the Kings more than held their own.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this loss, it's the importance of capitalizing on the few chances you get against an elite team. And the importance of the shift following conceding a goal.
The Kings play their third straight game against division leaders against the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday. While the Bruins continue their California sweep in San Jose the same night.