LOS ANGELES, Calif. – With leading scorer Anze Kopitar sidelined for the playoffs and Jarret Stoll suspended one game, the Los Angeles Kings found some much-needed offence among their defencemen.
Drew Doughty notched four points in the Kings’ 4-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks that tied their first-round playoff series at a game apiece. Besides scoring twice, Doughty assisted on a power-play goal by fellow defenceman Jack Johnson and a rebound goal by forward Kyle Clifford.
Stoll will be back for Game 3 on Tuesday night at Staples Center. He missed Saturday’s win after being suspended for a hit from behind on Sharks defenceman Ian White, who plans to return, too.
White left the series opener, which the Sharks won in overtime, after absorbing Stoll’s hit and didn’t play in Game 2 because of a concussion, but he practiced on Monday.
Stoll said Monday that he texted White to “let him know that I didn’t mean to hurt him in any way. He appreciated the text and reaching out to him. Sorry it happened, sorry I missed a game and happy our team came out and got the win.”
“Having Stoli back is a huge part for us,” Doughty said after practice. “Our fans are going to be great, really loud and we’re going to be really pumped and excited for it.”
The Kings will wear their black jerseys at home, where their average attendance of 18,083 was the highest in club history, and they’re encouraging their fans to dress all in black while waving black rally towels.
“With two California teams especially, it’s going to get revved up, and that’s great for the game,” Kings coach Terry Murray said.
Sitting out Game 2 gave Stoll a coach’s perspective on how the Kings played.
“There wasn’t any stretches where we had lapses or inconsistency with our play,” he said. “We stuck with it and kept going. Everybody was just rolling over the boards and having fun with it. When you do that, you’re usually going to come out on top.”
Doughty’s four points tied a Kings playoff record for a defenceman, and Johnson added an assist. When the duo wasn’t scoring, they were shutting down San Jose’s attack.
“He definitely made his plays when he was there and scored a few goals but they came off our breakdowns,” Sharks centre Joe Pavelski said about Doughty. “We need all five guys playing defensively as well as on the offence. We can handle him when we do that and put pucks in better spots.”
Doughty keyed a power play that improved to 3-for-6 in the series after struggling in the regular season. The same thing happened a year ago against Vancouver in the first round, when the Kings were 10-for-26 with a man advantage before eventually losing in six games.
“Last year we really stepped up on the power play as well. I don’t know why we can’t do it during the regular season,” Doughty said. “It’s a key part to our offence. With Kopi being out, our offence is going to struggle a little bit more so our power play has got to come up huge like it did last game. We got to capitalize every chance we get.”
Doughty is doing just that after a lacklustre training camp and suffering a concussion in October that sidelined him for six games. The effects lingered long after, when he wasn’t the same aggressive player that helped Canada win Olympic gold last year.
“He wasn’t quite moving. He wasn’t skating with the authority, with the puck in particular and then the concussion happens, so there’s a big step back after recovering from that,” Murray said.
“Players sometimes, not just Drew, are going to say, ‘Gee, I thought I was playing pretty good,’ especially when you’re a young guy. The last half of the year he’s been playing the kind of game that we want.”
The Sharks will need at least one win in the next two games to regain home ice advantage and avoid facing elimination when the series returns to the Bay Area.
“They outcompeted us in every aspect of the game,” Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “That’s usually what it is. The team’s that down comes out hard. The team that’s up has to try to match their intensity and we didn’t do that. In Game 3 we’ll have to play the way they did (Saturday).”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Jose contributed to this report.