LOS ANGELES – They were the same old Los Angeles Kings for 26 seconds, blowing a four-goal lead to the elite San Jose Sharks and their star-studded power play.
Teddy Purcell abruptly ended that depressing moment Tuesday night with an improbable goal from behind the net, and the Kings hung on for a 6-4 win. It’s still awfully early, but the Kings believed such a stirring victory is a sign that perhaps the same old Pacific Division pecking order could change this season.
The Sharks’ early results – two losses in three games with a whopping 12 goals allowed – might suggest something similar.
“These are games that a year ago, I don’t think we would have won, being up 4-0 and blowing it in the third,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “Once they scored that fourth goal, I think last year it would have gone the other way. I think that’s where we have gained on teams such as San Jose. That’s a huge advantage they’ve always had.”
Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists, and Jonathan Quick made 25 saves for the Kings. Ryan Smyth scored his first goal for Los Angeles, which earned its first win of the season and just its fifth home win over the Sharks in the defending division champions’ last 16 visits.
After the Kings chased Evgeni Nabokov while taking their big early lead, Devin Setoguchi scored two of San Jose’s four power-play goals in less than 20 minutes. Shortly after Dany Heatley capped a three-point night for his new team with the tying goal, Purcell ricocheted home a shot off backup goalie Thomas Greiss’ back skate with 5:10 to play.
“That’s a shot mentality right there,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “There’s not a lot of guys that are even going to think about putting pucks to the net in that particular position, and there’s not a lot of guys who would score on that, either. It seems to come to the guys who have that knack.”
Wayne Simmonds and Jack Johnson also scored, and Davis Drewiske put his first NHL goal into an empty net with 1:19 to play. Michal Handzus had two assists for the Kings, who lost their season opener Saturday to Phoenix with Quick giving up six goals.
“To give up a four-goal lead and still hang on and keep on pushing and come out with a win just says something about the character in this room,” Quick said.
Defensive depth and goaltending are the biggest concerns about this fall’s edition of last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, and San Jose’s 1-2 start on the road has only underlined those perceived flaws.
San Jose made a major roster overhaul after its first-round playoff loss to Anaheim, and while the new Sharks bring offensive punch, their defensive unfamiliarity is showing.
“We’re not going to win giving up six goals,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re not going to win games with goaltending like that. We’re not going to win games looking for players (to perform) for the first half of the night. It was great to see us battle back … but obviously there’s some areas that we have to work on.”
San Jose also played without second-line centre Joe Pavelski, who has a lower-body injury. Joe Thornton had three assists and captain Rob Blake had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who finally get their home opener Thursday night against Columbus.
“The first and third period were pretty good, but we can’t give up five or six goals a night,” said Heatley, who has five points and a minus-4 rating in his first three games with San Jose. “The offence might take a little time to jell, but we’ve got to be better on defence right away.”
Nabokov made 16 saves, but gave up a hefty goal total for the second time already this season. When Kopitar somehow sneaked a long deflected puck into the top near corner of Nabokov’s net from near the blue line late in the second period, McLellan replaced Nabokov with Greiss, the German rookie making his first NHL appearance since March 20, 2008.
Setoguchi and Blake trimmed Los Angeles’ lead to one goal with scores during Alexander Frolov’s double minor for high-sticking Setoguchi.
NOTES: After San Jose RW Brad Staubitz knocked down Drewiske with a dangerous check late in the second period, San Jose’s Jody Shelley and Los Angeles’ Raitis Ivanans had a vicious fight featuring several unblocked haymakers by both enforcers. … Blake, the Sharks’ new captain in his second season with the club, was booed every time he touched the puck by the crowd in half-full Staples Center.