The better their opponent is, the better the Los Angeles Kings seem to play.
Rob Blake not only became the first defenseman ever to score 100 goals in a Kings uniform, but shadowed Alexei Yashin so well Monday night that Stephane Fiset was able to earn a 4-0 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators and his 14th career shutout.
"That's a pretty good team over there -- one of the best we've seen in a while -- but we held them pretty good," Blake said. "They're preparing for the playoffs, but these are key games in the playoff run for us and we've got to get going. You would love to be in Ottawa's situation, where the two points aren't really that important."
Philippe Boucher, Donald Audette and Glen Murray also scored and Fiset made 29 saves en route to his second shutout of the season, helping the Kings climb within three points of idle Calgary and Edmonton for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.
The loss was Ottawa's second in a row, following a five-game winning streak, and marked the first time the Senators have lost back-to-back games since December. They have lost all six games they've played at the Forum, and won't play the Kings in Los Angeles again until next season at the Staples Center.
"We must be in a vacation mode or something out here, losing these last two games," Ottawa goalie Ron Tugnutt said. "The first 10 minutes in San Jose and most of the night tonight, we really weren't there. We let them control the game all night long. It's not so much losing back-to-back, as it is how you lose them."
The Senators had one of their best scoring chances with 13:24 left in the second period, after the puck took an unnorthodox carom off the end boards and ended up right on the stick of Yashin in the slot. But Fiset got a piece of the 15-foot wrist shot with his right arm despite being screened by Blake.
"We had some chances, but we just couldn't put the puck in the net," Yashin said. "We didn't play as well as we should have."
Fiset stopped five shots by Yashin, ending a consecutive goal streak of five games in which he scored nine times, and left the six-year veteran center tied for the NHL goal-scoring lead with Philadelphia's Eric Lindros and John LeClair at 38 apiece.
"Did you see his strength tonight? It's unbelievable," Ian Laperriere said of Yashin. "I mean, Rob Blake and Matty Norstrom tried to run him, but it's hard to knock down a guy who's that strong. So when you shut down a guy like that, you've got a good chance to win the game."
Tugnutt, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.60 goals-against average and stopped Jozef Stumpel on a breakaway four minutes into the second period while the game was still scoreless. Tugnutt played on equal terms with Fiset until 14:38 of the second, when the Kings capitalized on a power play against the NHL's least-penalized team. Blake's ninth of the season came 45 seconds after Lance Pitlick was sent off for roughing up Laperriere.
Blake, who led all NHL defenseman last season with a career-high 23 goals and became the first Kings blue liner to win the Norris Trophy, was at the top of the left circle when he one-timed a pass from Garry Galley and beat Tugnutt to the stick side for his fifth goal in nine games.
The Kings increased their margin to two goals at 17:22 of the second. Ray Ferraro set up Boucher 25 feet out in the slot, and his one-timer glanced off Radek Bonk's stick before banking in off the right post.
"I was open and I don't know if Ray saw me, but he made a great play," Boucher said. "He never really looked at me, so nobody really came at me. Then at the last minute, he gave me the puck."
It was a rough night all around for Pitlick, a fifth-year defenseman who was burned twice in a 44-second span of the third period as the Kings opened up a four-goal lead.
Audette slipped behind Pitlick in the slot after getting a cross-ice pass from Blake and stuffed his 15th gal through Tugnutt's pads about five minutes into the period. Ferraro then stole the puck from Pitlick behind the net and fed into the high slot, where O'Donnell's screened shot was deflected in by Murray.
"You're not going to say that it's necessarily all his fault," Tugnutt said in Pitlick's defense. "Those games happen and you've got to put it behind you, the same as anybody else."
The Senators, who have the league's fourth highest scoring offense with 196 goals, managed only four shots on net in the first period as they were shut out for only the third time. It was the 12th time this season that a Kings goalie faced fewer than five shots in a period, but their record in those games is only 4-8-0.
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