LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Dustin Brown realizes his Los Angeles Kings are getting every opponent’s best shots these days, legal and otherwise.
Not enough of those haymakers have landed to slow the Western Conference leaders’ knockout start to the season.
Justin Williams scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 13:09 to play, Jonathan Quick made 27 saves and the Kings matched the best home start in franchise history with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
Jack Johnson had a goal and an assist, and captain Brown also scored for the Kings, who improved to 7-0-0 at Staples Center with a fight-filled win over their Pacific Division rival.
“Every team is coming in here expecting a hard game, and they’re raising their games accordingly,” Brown said. “We’re not going to catch anybody by surprise this year. If we’ve got to play a physical game, we have big, strong guys who can answer the bell. I think we can handle it.”
Although it’s still early, the young Kings have handled nearly every obstacle in their way, including several significant injuries, while equalling the best start in franchise history.
With five straight wins and seven of eight overall, Los Angeles (11-3-0) has 22 points in 14 games to match the 1974-75 club. The Kings’ perfect home start matches the 1975-76 and 1980-81 clubs’ record.
Getting there required giving a little blood, however. Neither team had played since Saturday, and that extra energy showed up in a bad-tempered game with numerous aggressive checks leading to four fights and 91 combined penalty minutes.
“It was intense, (and) the second and third periods got revved up pretty good,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. “(For the) early part of the year, it was an intense battle. You’ve got two division teams, and that always adds a little bit to it. I thought we played pretty hard. They’re a tough team, and that kind of stuff isn’t going to go away.”
Dallas’ Adam Burish capped the night by sending Kings defenceman Drew Doughty facefirst into the boards with four minutes left, earning a game misconduct and a major penalty for boarding that led to Johnson’s first goal of the season during the power play with 2:48 to play. Doughty missed six games earlier this season with an apparent concussion, but Murray said he appeared to be fine.
“It’s crushing. I feel terrible about that,” Burish said. “I wasn’t trying to hurt the guy. I was just trying to get body position on him. It was one of those in-between plays where he was trying to turn away from the puck in the corner, and I was just trying to get some body position, and he fell. Obviously he came back and was OK. What hurts me is the spot I put our guys in.”
Quick quietly had another outstanding game in the Kings’ net, improving to 9-1-0 with a .944 save percentage.
After costing the Kings a second-period goal by committing goalie interference, Williams atoned for that slip of the skate early in the third. He gathered the puck near the side boards and fired a wrist shot past
Kari Lehtonen, who was screened by constant crease presence Ryan Smyth.
Jamie Benn scored after Doughty made a glaring defensive mistake and Kari Lehtonen stopped 26 shots for the Stars, who had won three of four before committing 28 minutes in third-period penalties.
“Penalty trouble got us again,” Dallas centre Brad Richards said. “You can’t spend that much time in the box in the third period. Sometimes it’s a penalty, sometimes it’s not. It’s a guessing game every night. When you’ve got people going after guys’ heads and some of it’s called and some of it’s not, that’s when you get a little confused out there.”
The night of bad feelings started when Jarret Stoll skated slowly to the Kings’ bench after getting levelled by James Neal. The hit appeared to be perfectly legal, but Matt Greene dropped his gloves and chased down Neal for a brief fight, earning 17 minutes in penalties and giving a power play to Dallas for his instigator minor.
Shortly after an apparent Kings goal was disallowed on goalie interference when Williams’ skate connected with Lehtonen’s pad in the second period, Kopitar desperately knocked a loose puck away from Los Angeles’ open net.
“We know we’re not going to come in here and score five goals, so you have to be patient,” Richards said. “The power play is going to have to get some chances, which we didn’t get until the end. They have a good goaltender, so you’ve got to work for what you get. We’re going to have to start winning some 2-1 games.”
NOTES: The Kings played their first game without Willie Mitchell and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Both veterans will be out for at least a month with injuries. … Los Angeles LW Kyle Clifford celebrated his 10th NHL game by dropping Dallas’ Brandon Segal with one punch in a second-period fight. The first year of the 19-year-old Clifford’s entry-level contract has kicked in after 10 games, meaning he’s much less likely to be sent back to his junior team in Barrie (OHL).