If five games is an indication, the Los Angeles Kings have found something special with their new-look No. 1 line.
With Ryan Smyth joining holdovers Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, the Kings are off to a quick start. Since an opening-night loss to Phoenix, Los Angeles has won four straight – the latest a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday.
“It’s a great feeling, but we don’t want to ride our highs too high and our lows too low,” said Smyth, acquired from Colorado in an off-season trade. “We want to stay pretty even keel and enjoy our time.”
Kopitar and Smyth, who assisted on Kopitar’s second-period, power-play goal that broke a scoreless tie, have at least one point in all five games. With Williams, the trio has combined for nine goals and 14 assists.
“We were put together right off the bat in training camp,” Kopitar said. “Ryan is experienced enough and Justin is experienced enough that they know what it takes to get the chemistry going.
“It’s just a good mixture on the line. We’re clicking pretty good and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Add in good young defenceman Drew Doughty, who pushed the lead to 2-0 in the third, and emerging goalie Jon Quick, the Kings seem to be building for a bright future.
Quick, who has played every minute in the first five games, was rarely tested and finished with 28 saves. He fell 1:55 short of his fifth NHL shutout when Matt Moulson scored his second of the season.
“He is playing better every game,” Kings coach Terry Murray said of Quick. “They had a couple of opportunities in the early part of the game where he came up with big glove saves.
“We tried to keep things at 2-0, but they’ve got some good young players. They found a way to score and make it interesting.”
The Kings held on and improved to 2-0 on a six-game trip that began with a 2-1 win at St. Louis on Saturday. Los Angeles killed all three Islanders power plays, including one in the third period.
“We’re doing the little things right and that means getting the pucks in and out at the right times down deep and then making teams come 200 feet,” Smyth said. “Our power play is clicking, but as of late our (penalty-killing) has been doing an excellent job, too.”
New York (0-1-3) is still seeking its first win after starting the season with three overtime losses, two by shootout. The Islanders led two of those games in the third period, including blowing a three-goal lead late at Boston on Saturday.
Martin Biron made 20 saves and is one win from 200 in the NHL.
“No, we don’t have to keep their morale up, we have to kick them in the butt and go play 60 minutes,” Islanders captain Doug Weight said of his young teammates. “There is going to be a learning curve to a lot of aspects of the game with any young team, we know that, but this is hockey we have a system we have to play.
“There are no smoke and mirrors with our team. We know what we have to do. We have to play pretty perfect for 60 minutes.”
Kopitar scored his fourth goal of the season with 1:27 left in the second.
Islanders defenceman Mark Streit lost the puck behind the net, and Kopitar ended up with it and came out to Biron’s right. He moved the puck with a short pass to Williams before getting it back in the right circle. Kopitar patiently waited for an opening and snapped a wrist shot for the goal with 6 seconds left on Blake Comeau’s hooking penalty.
Doughty, a defenceman taken No. 2 overall in the 2008 draft, made it 2-0 at 5:31 of the third when he fired a slap shot from just above the right circle past Biron. He has a five-game point streak, notching two goals and four assists in the career-best run.
NOTES: Williams has 12 assists and 22 points in 29 games against the Islanders. His next assist will be his 200th in the NHL. … Quick went 3-0 and stopped 80 of 88 shots last week. … John Tavares, the top pick in this year’s draft by the Islanders, failed to earn a point for the first time. He had two goals and three assists in New York’s first three games. … The Islanders held an 11-4 shots advantage in the first period. … Weight returned after sitting out at Boston due to a groin injury that has limited him to two games this season.