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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Boston Bruins figured their road swing against the NHL's three tough California teams would be a strong indication of their ability to contend for a playoff spot.
Interim coach Bruce Cassidy thinks the Bruins are leaving the Golden State in great shape.
Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored their 26th goals of the season, and the Bruins improved to 5-1-0 under Cassidy with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Anton Khudobin made 27 saves in his second start since Christmas for the Bruins, who nursed an early lead to their first win in Los Angeles since March 24, 2012. The Bruins won two of three in California, with a competitive loss to Anaheim sandwiched between wins over the Sharks and Kings.
"It's not easy to do in this league, playing big, heavy teams like this back-to-back," said Cassidy, who played under Kings coach Darryl Sutter with the IHL's Saginaw Hawks and Indianapolis Ice from 1988-90. "We did what we had to do. These are three tough buildings to win in, and I know the Bruins have had their struggles out here."
Pastrnak punctuated a strong all-around game with his seventh power-play goal of the season early in the second period. Dominic Moore ended his 26-game goal drought with an empty-net score, and David Krejci added another empty-netter with 7.2 seconds left.
"This trip is a really good indicator of how we match up against certain types of teams," Marchand said. "They play a really difficult style of game ... and we responded to it really well."
Boston's unbeaten start under Cassidy ended one night earlier in Anaheim, but the Bruins responded with another strong defensive game in front of their backup goalie. Khudobin was solid in just his ninth start of the season for the Bruins, who have relied heavily on All-Star Tuukka Rask in net.
"I got tired in the second, and (the Bruins) picked it up for me," Khudobin said. "And then (Los Angeles) didn't have many shots in the third period. Perfect game for me."
Kevin Gravel scored his first NHL goal and Peter Budaj stopped 21 shots for the Kings, who have lost six of eight. Los Angeles' playoff hopes have taken a hit during the rough stretch including just five goals in its last four games.
"Can't chase the lead," Sutter said. "(Giving up an) early goal is just a constant theme. Chase the lead. Put some production on the top end of your lineup to overcome that."
The Kings have a home-heavy schedule down the stretch, but they've lost seven of 11 at Staples Center.
After Marchand put the Bruins ahead early on a 2-on-1 rush, Gravel scored on a rebound of rookie Adrian Kempe's shot. Gravel's goal was the defenseman's first of his 45-game career with the Kings, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.
"It was a long time coming on that one," Gravel said. "I had nothing but net to shoot at, so I just basically tapped her in. Obviously, I want that one to come in a win, but the first goal is a special moment, for sure."
Pastrnak reclaimed the lead for Boston early in the second. He broke his stick on the one-timer, but the changeup effect on the puck fooled Budaj just enough. The 20-year-old Czech forward tied Patrice Bergeron for the team lead in power-play goals.
Los Angeles managed just one shot in the first 15 minutes of the third period, and Moore sealed it with 1:02 to play on his first goal since Dec. 20.
NOTES: Boston F Riley Nash was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He scored 10 points while playing in all 60 games for the Bruins this season, but had just one assist in the last eight games. ... Sutter coached his 1,263rd game, passing Jacques Lemaire for sole possession of 13th place in NHL history. ... Jeff Zatkoff was the Kings' backup goalie. Los Angeles placed Zatkoff on waivers earlier in the week, but didn't send him to the AHL after he cleared.
Bruins: At Stars on Sunday.
Kings: Host Ducks on Saturday.
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