The Homecoming Kings couldn’t have asked for a much better evening.
Having traveled more than 16,000 miles since the last time they saw the inside of STAPLES Center, the Kings reacquainted themselves with home nicely, as they put together a complete all-around game and beat the St. Louis Blues 5-0 on Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 18,118.
A brutal start to the Kings’ season included two games in Europe and two games on the East Coast of the United States and led coach Terry Murray to publicly fret that his team might be headed for a letdown.
No such worries. The Kings pushed the action early, scored a first-period goal then essentially put the game away with two second-period goals. Jonathan Quick made it stand up with another strong effort in goal, as he made 27 saves to improve his record to 3-0-1 this season.
Simon Gagne had two goals and one assist. Anze Kopitar had one goal and one assist as he pushed his total to four goals and five assists in five games. Nine players recorded at least one point for the Kings.
``It’s what we wanted (in) the first game at home in front of your fans,’’ Gagne said. ``We want to show what type of team we are and it’s good to get the first win and get a lot of goals for the fans. It’s always fun to go to a hockey game and see some goals. Overall we did play a good game as a team.’’
The Kings hadn’t defeated the Blues at home in almost three years, but on Tuesday, they grabbed control of the game early and were never really in much danger of losing it. The Kings led 3-0 after two periods, and Gagne’s second goal of the game made it 5-0, six-plus minutes into the third period.
``It’s good to spread the scoring around. It’s good to see some guys score,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``There was a little bit better shot mentality in the game, although the number wasn’t that high , at the end of the day, for shots on goal. But the opportunities that were there, we were not looking for other options. We were starting to get pucks to the net and that, to me, is a real positive.’’
There was some karma at work. Jarret Stoll made a nice pass that led to Gagne’s first-period goal, then Stoll got rewarded with a second-period goal. Dustin Brown made a brilliant, backhand centering pass on Stoll’s goal, and then Brown got rewarded with a 5-on-3 second-period goal.
The Kings had to be pleased with their scoring balance, as they got goals from their first-line left winger (Gagne) and center (Kopitar), their second-line right winger (Brown) and their third-line center (Stoll).
Quick turned in his third consecutive stellar game, and was particularly sharp on the penalty kill as he recorded his first shutout of the season and his 15th career shutout.
``It’s just kind of icing on the cake there,’’ Quick said. ``At the end of the day, it’s two points. That’s all it is. We’ve got to just build off what we did here today and just continue. It’s a long season. We’re going to take it one game at a time and keep going here.’’
Quick got some support, as the Kings scored three regulation goals for the first time this season. The Kings had totaled only seven regulation goals in their first four regular-season games.
After a flurry of chances, the Kings took a 1-0 lead 7:20 into the first period. Simon entered the offensive zone after a pass from Stoll and took a medium-range wrist shot. Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak made the stop, but Gagne skated through traffic, picked up his own rebound and beat Halak from close range. Mitchell also got an assist.
Some nice puck control by Brown led to the Kings' second goal, with 8:24 remaining in the second period. Brown carried the puck behind the net, cut back, then fed a perfect centering pass to Stoll, who crashed the net and scored on a one-timer. Dustin Penner also got an assist.
The Kings took a 3-0 lead with a 5-on-3 goal with 4:55 remaining in the period. Mike Richards held the puck near the middle of the left circle, then sent the puck to the net. Brown whacked at the puck twice, and sent it past Halak the second time. Jack Johnson also got an assist.
The Kings needed only 23 seconds of the third period to take a four-goal lead. Kopitar took a sharp wrist shot from the top of the left circle. Halak got a piece of the shot, but it got through him and over the line. Gagne and Justin Williams got assists. The goal was Kopitar's fourth in five games this season. After the goal, Halak was pulled in favor of Brian Elliott.
The Blues had a goal disallowed, after on-ice officials ruled it was knocked in by a high stick, and the Kings took a 5-0 lead less than 40 seconds later. Kopitar lofted a pass from one blue line to the other, and Gagne skated under the pass, brought the puck in alone, went wide and lifted a shot into the net from a tight angle. Williams also got an assist, his second of the game, 6:29 into the third period.
``It’s one of those things that happens real quick,’’ Kopitar said of his pass. ``You just react out there on the ice. Fortunately for us, it clicked.’’