First line shines as Kings beat Wild 6-3
The Kings hoped Ryan Smyth
would bring gritty, front-of-the-net goals, that Justin Williams
would be an offensive spark and that both forwards would elevate Anze Kopitar
So far, so good, although not without some anxious moments Thursday night.
Smyth had two goals, Kopitar and Williams each had one and the line combined for nine points as the Kings beat the Minnesota Wild 6-3 before an announced crowd of 14,995 at Staples Center.
Smyth also had an assist, Kopitar had one goal and two assists and Williams had one goal and two assists. Michal Handzus
and Teddy Purcell also scored for the Kings.
The night also ended well for Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi
, who, after the game, received his Stanley Cup championship ring from Kings president Luc Robitaille. Scuderi was a key member of last season's Pittsburgh Penguins championship team.
The Kings led 3-0 in the first period, surived a third-period scare that saw the Wild pull within 4-3, and scored two late goals to improve to 2-1 this season, with a season-long six-game road trip to start Saturday at St. Louis.
"That line was as good as I've seen them since they've been together, throughout the training camp and the early part of the season,'' coach Terry Murray said. "Hopefully they can keep building on that. Williams, that was maybe his best game. He was very heads up, very intense, really skated very well tonight.''
The night wasn't all positive. Once again, the Kings nearly blew a big lead, as their 3-0 first-period advantage turned into a 4-3 lead early in the third period. The Kings allowed two more power-play goals (they're 4 for 11 on the penalty kill this season). For the Kings to have sustained success, those can't become trends.
Yet it's hard to ignore the top-line production so far. Kopitar, Smyth and Williams have combined for 18 points in three games.
"The big thing is, we're communicating in practice, and obviously it's leading into the game situation,'' Smyth said. "I've always thought that Kopi is an excellent hockey player. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him. When the game is on, he turns it up too. It's a good mix right now, and things are going good right now.''
Through the first three games, the Kings have scored 15 goals and allowed 13 goals. You have to go back 14 years to find a start to a Kings season quite like this one.
In 1995-96, the Kings started 2-0-1, scored 17 goals and allowed. It wasn't sustainable, though, as the Kings finished that season with a 24-40-18 record. Still, last season the Kings didn't score their 15th goal until their sixth game.
"The biggest thing is that coach has emphasized the shot mentality,'' Smyth said, "and getting guys to the net and getting a little net presence. Obviously that goes with my game a little bit, and I don't want to change my game. Guys are getting (the puck) through and we're getting rewarded.''
The Kings scored on their first shot. Jack Johnson
shot from the right point, and Smyth, well-positioned in front of the net, got the tip-in at the 1:07 mark. Scuderi also picked up an assist.
Just 2:11 later, Drew Doughty
's shot from the right point got deflected by Williams, past Minnesota goalie Josh Harding for a 2-0 lead. Kopitar also got an assist.
The third goal was the most impressive. Smyth went strong to the net, then fed a perfect backhand pass to Kopitar, who went straight to the net and beat Harding with a high one-timer with 9:29 remaining in the period. Williams also got an assist.
"It wasn't a good period,'' Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "We had some guys who just weren't ready for the start of the game. And you're not going to win a lot of games if you're starting second periods down by three goals.''
In the second period, with Sean O'Donnell in the penalty box for interference, Havlat scored a power-play goal at the 6:30 mark after a basic centering pass from Andrew Brunette.
Handzus helped restore some momentum when he found space in the slot. He took a simple pass from Alexander Frolov, from down low, settled the puck on his stick and scored on a wrist shot for a 4-1 Kings lead.
Nick Schultz pulled the Wild back within two goals. He picked up the rebound on Eric Belanger's shot and slapped it past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick
, who made 26 saves.
Kim Johnsson caused some nervous moments 6:24 into the third period when he scored to make it 4-3, but Purcell scored with 9:34 remaining and Smyth's second goal, on the power play, came just 36 seconds later.
LAKings.com GAME NOTES
The last time the Kings scored six goals in back-to-back games was 1997-98 (Nov. 11, 1997: 8-2 vs. Vancouver, Nov. 13, 1997: 6-3 vs. San Jose)...The Kings have had 10 different goal scorers account for their 15 total goals...Ryan Smyth
(2-1=3), Anze Kopitar
(1-2=3) and Justin Williams
(1-2=3) combined for nine points tonight (4-5=9) and have combined for 18 points (7-11=18) in the first three games...Kopitar has eight points (3-5=8) in the first three games. It took him 12 games to get eight points last season...Jonathan Quick
is now 4-0-0 lifetime against Minnesota...The Kings have beaten the Wild five straight times, dating back to last season...The last time the Kings started a season 2-1-0 was 2006-07.
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