LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 line became considerably stronger with the addition of Marco Sturm.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown scored and Sturm earned an assist in his third game with his new team, leading the Kings to a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night in the second instalment of the “Freeway Faceoff.”
Sturm, who has had six seasons of at least 20 goals, was obtained from Boston on Dec. 11.
“Marco’s a really smart player. He’s scored 20-30 goals in this league for a number of years, and now we have that other winger that can find the back of the net pretty consistently,” Brown said.
“It will take a few games, and it’s a matter of him getting up to game speed. … It’s tough for a player to get acclimated so quickly after a trade and coming back from an injury.”
Kopitar, Sturm and Brown had no points and two shots in the first period—both by Kopitar. But they collaborated on the goal that put the Kings ahead to stay at 9:10 of the second.
Brown sent a long pass to Kopitar, who carried the puck into the zone and was stopped by Jonas Hiller. Sturm was denied on the rebound, but another long rebound on the play resulted in Kopitar’s 15th goal and a 2-1 lead.
“It’s not like Brownie and I are the slowest guys, but we’re not the fastest guys, either. So Marco’s speed and his ability to skate is a welcome addition to our line,” Kopitar said. “He’s making plays and he’s very good around the net, and that’s what we needed. Everyone’s got their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s just a matter of getting used to him and his style of play and just build some chemistry.”
Jonathan Bernier made 18 saves for Los Angeles while Jonathan Quick got the night off. Wayne Simmonds and Justin Williams also scored against Hiller, who stopped 19-of-23 shots. He was replaced with 2:03 left in the second period by Curtis McElhinney after Brown’s power-play goal made it 4-1.
“I have to play better and give my team a chance,” Hiller said. “We gave them way too many chances in our slot. If I stopped some of them, nobody would talk about it.
“It’s never a good feeling when you get pulled, but it’s part of the job, so I have to get over it and focus on the next game.”
Hiller, who shut out the Kings at home on Nov. 29, is 0-4 in Los Angeles.
“The last game we played them in Anaheim, Hiller was amazing,” Simmonds said. “Like every great goalie in this league, when they see pucks they’re going to stop them and cradle them. So the more shots you take in traffic, the more rebounds you’re going to get. And I think we accomplished that.
“He was fighting the puck a little bit, so we started crashing the net after the first couple of shots and started picking up those rebounds.”
Matt Beleskey, playing his first game with the Ducks since Dec. 7 after being recalled from Syracuse of the AHL, scored Anaheim’s goal. In the first period, he sent Brown to the ice with an uppercut to the face after the Kings captain got a little too close to Hiller as he froze the puck in the crease.
“If a guy wants to get involved in the game, that’s a good way to do it. But it’s part of the game,” Brown said. “I don’t know if they wanted to take that penalty that early in the game. They were trying to get under the skin of the guys on this team, but we stick together and that stuff doesn’t affect us.”
Williams made it 3-1 at 12:55 of the period, beating Hiller with a chip shot to the glove side after Joffrey Lupul lost the puck at his feet and had it stolen by Williams. Brown added his 14th goal about five minutes later on a rebound of Drew Doughty’s long wrist shot through a screen while Beleskey served a delay-of-game penalty.
“We made too many critical mistakes with the puck,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s always deflating to see them get three goals in a row. (Lupul) fumbled the puck and we should have had someone in position to recover it. (Williams) made a shot that nine times out of 10 our goalie would have stopped. But he didn’t tonight.”
Each team scored in the opening minute of the second. Simmonds converted a rebound of a short backhander by Michal Handzus at :15 for his eighth goal and first in a home game. Beleskey scored his first of the season 32 seconds later on a deflection of Toni Lydman’s one-timer from just inside the blue-line.
Notes: Kings D Matt Greene returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 13 after missing five games because of a concussion. … The Kings have allowed 78 goals, the fewest in the Western Conference. … Bernier, a first-round draft pick in 2006, is 8-8 in 16 NHL starts and 4-5 in nine starts this season.