LOS ANGELES – Perfect penalty killing and strong third periods have given the Los Angeles Kings consecutive victories after an 0-2 start.
Michal Handzus scored 56 seconds after the opening faceoff and again at 3:21 of overtime, leading the Kings to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
Handzus has four points in the first four games. Last season, he didn’t get his fourth point until his 16th game.
“I am more patient this year and more confident and stronger,” Handzus said. “I don’t think about last year. This is a new season.”
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar scored their first goals of the season to help the Kings erase a two-goal deficit. Brown led Los Angeles with 33 goals last season, and Kopitar had 32.
In overtime, Carolina defenceman Dennis Seidenberg gave up the puck in the neutral zone and Handzus skated into the zone with it before beating Cam Ward with a short wrist shot. It was his third career overtime goal and first since Dec. 5, 2002.
Moments earlier, Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera stacked his pads and made a clutch save against Eric Staal after the Carolina forward got a pass in the slot from Ray Whitney and faked the goalie to the ice.
“We had an opportunity and didn’t bury it. They had an opportunity and buried it,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.
Ryan Bayda, Dan LaCouture and Matt Cullen scored during a 6:20 span of the second period for Carolina. Defenceman Niclas Wallin had two assists for the Hurricanes, who lost defenceman Frantisek Kaberle about seven minutes into the middle period because of a leg injury after he blocked a slapshot by Kings defenceman Kyle Quincey.
The Kings were trailing 3-1 when Brown took a 30-foot wrist shot from the slot that beat Ward low to the glove side at 17:55 of the second period. Kopitar got the equalizer with 9:41 left in regulation, backhanding the puck past the right arm of the sprawling Ward from the left of the crease after scoring attempts by Brown and Quincey.
It was the second straight game in which the Kings overcame a two-goal deficit. They beat Anaheim 6-3 on Tuesday night after trailing 2-0.
“Last year in a game like this, we would have just folded the tent and not done what we did tonight,” LaBarbera said. “We weren’t too happy with the first two periods, but we had a lot of jump and enthusiasm in the third.
“It’s fun coming to the rink this year. It’s a fun group to be around. Everybody’s enjoying each other, and that makes such a huge difference when you go on the ice.”
The Hurricanes, who led the NHL with 420 power-play opportunities last season, were 0-for-5 against Los Angeles and came up empty three times with the man advantage in the third period. The Kings have killed all 19 power plays through their first four games.
“We don’t see them as much because they’re in the east, but we knew they have a very fast team and they play an offensive game,” Handzus said. “We stopped skating in the second period and got in a big hole, but we were able to come back.”
Playing at Staples Center for the first time since beating the Kings 3-2 on Dec. 8, 2005, the Hurricanes tied it at one at 9:16 of the second when Bayda redirected Wallin’s wrist from the left point.
Less than three minutes later, Wallin got a cross-ice pass from Joni Pitkanen and took a one-timer from the right point that deflected in off LaCouture’s stick as he was tied up in front. Whitney made it 3-1 at 15:36 of the period on an assist from Staal, as the puck bounced in off the back of Whitney’s leg.
The Kings opened the scoring after a turnover by Pitkanen, who joined the Hurricanes in a July 1 trade that sent Erik Cole to Edmonton. The defenceman was checked hard by rookie Wayne Simmonds on an attempted clearing pass and the puck bounced back behind the net. Simmonds chased it down and was able to make a perfect centring pass to Handzus near the crease despite a hard check against the boards from Tim Gleason.
Before the game, Kings defenceman Matt Greene signed a US$14.75-million, five-year contract extension, six days after the club signed Kopitar to a $47.6-million, seven-year extension. Greene, in his first season with the Kings after spending the previous three with Edmonton, is making $1.25 million this season.
Notes: The Kings are one of only three teams to have not given up a power-play goal this season. Buffalo is 21-for-21 and Minnesota is 12-for-12. … Carolina is the fourth club LW Sergei Samsonov has started the season with in the last four years, including Boston, Montreal and Chicago. The Hurricanes claimed the 1998 rookie of the year off waivers from the Blackhawks last January. … Carolina is the only NHL team to win a Stanley Cup and miss the playoffs the next two seasons.