Masked Jason saw all the attackers

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

It was Jason LaBarbera who ended up winning the goaltending duel last night.

In a battle that pitted the Los Angeles Kings former starting goaltender against their current No. 1, LaBarbera turned away 32 of the 33 shots he faced to defeat Mathieu Garon and the Edmonton Oilers 3-1.

"To win games you need good goaltending performances and Jason has provided that for us all year," said Kings winger Dustin Brown, who scored the eventual game winner.

"He played great tonight, got out and battled and was able to see most of the pucks, even though they were trying to get traffic out in front of him. When you get a goaltending performance like that, you're always going to have a chance to win."

LaBarbera saved his best for the third period. The Burnaby, B.C., native made 16 saves in the frame to help the Kings preserve their lead. His best came on Dustin Penner, sliding across his crease to get a pad on a one-timer.

"It was more of a reaction thing," LaBarbera said. "I know (Ales) Hemsky was on the wall, but you don't want to cheat too much. I saw a guy coming up the middle and a lot of times the play comes to that guy in the middle, but it got all the way across to Penner and I just pushed over and he shot it into me."

The save was made with just over five minutes gone in the third period. Less than two minutes later, Lubomir Visnovsky put the Kings up 3-0 with a power-play goal, essentially sealing the victory.

"He made a lot of solid saves all night," said Kings head coach Marc Crawford. "He didn't have a lot of work in the first period, but in the second I thought they came at us pretty hard. Then in the third period, you knew they were going to try and mount something."

Originally the New York Rangers third choice - 66th overall - in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, LaBarbera was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2005-2006 season.

Last year he spent the entire season in the minors as Mathieu Garon, Dan Cloutier, Sean Burke, Barry Brust, and even Yutaka Fukufuji rode the Kings goaltending carousel.

This season with Cloutier gone, and Garon with the Oilers, LaBarbera is the Kings starter. With yesterday's win he improved his record to 11-16-1 on the season.

The talk heading into the game was how well Garon had been playing for the Oilers and why the Kings let him get away.

"Jason had been very good up until he got injured," Crawford said. "Ryan Smyth ran into him in the crease in late November and then he missed three weeks with a rib injury. We played him then after Christmas and he just wasn't quite right.

"But he's been better the last little while and I think most of that has to be attributed to the fact that he's been more comfortable."


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