The noise told the story, the sustained, joyful roar that hasn't been heard from a Kings crowd in years. Thursday's sellout crowd had every reason to stand and cheer.
It's still early, yes, but it's hard to imagine a more impressive victory than the one the Kings put together, as they outworked the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins early, then got rewarded late in a 5-2 victory.
Facing a frustrating 2-1 deficit after two periods, the Kings torched the Penguins for four goals, sending the home crowd into raucous celebration and ending Pittsburgh's pefection on the road. The Penguins had been 7-0 on the road this season.
``When you have the defending champs in your rink, you’re going to use it as a measuring stick, and the team played really great,'' Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. ``We played a great team game and it all worked out pretty well.''
Keep that quote away from Kings coach Terry Murray, who had spent the previous days downplaying the importance of the game. Murray repeatedly said that he didn't consider it a ``measuring-stick'' game, even though the Penguins are champions and the Kings are a young team trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The postgame smiles on his players' faces told a different story. Kopitar, who scored two goals to increase his league-leading point total to 26, grinned sheepishly when asked if it was ``just another game,'' or whether it showed the Kings' growth.
``I think it showed that too,'' Kopitar said. ``Going into the third period again, down one, we managed to score four goals. We were doing some good stuff — I should say, some really good stuff — in the second period. ... That just shows the character, with sticking with it and not giving up, and that’s what the team is made of.''
So far, the Kings are showing that they're made of a lot, a lot of good things. There were positives all over the ice, and the score sheet.
-- Kopitar's two goals gave him 13 for the season and increased his league-leading point total to 26. Last season, Kopitar didn't score his 13th goal until game No. 50.
-- The line of Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams totaled five points, and has totaled 48 points in its 11 games together.
-- The Kings got secondary scoring, with goals from second- and third-line centers Stoll and Handzus and one from Brown.
-- Quick gave up a long-range goal 70 seconds into the game, just 43 seconds after the Kings had taken an early lead, but was mostly stellar after that. He didn't face sustained pressure for most of the game but made a handful of brilliant saves.
-- The penalty-kill unit, a shortcoming early in the season, was 3-for-3.
And don't forget the defense. Kopitar, not Sidney Crosby, looked like the MVP on the ice, as Crosby's scoreline read: one shot, one penalty and a minus-1 rating.
Of course, the Penguins were without injured players Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy, but a victory over the champs is always a major one.
``They’ve got a bunch of injuries,'' Murray said, ``but you still have to play the game. I’m sure they’re not going to throw that out as a reason either. They came to play and so did we, and I really like what we did in that third period.''
The third period was near-perfect, and the Kings couldn't have asked for a better start.
In the game's opening moments, the Kings' first line started a brilliant rush. Kopitar took a pass from Williams and moved patiently to the center of the ice, around Pittsburgh defensemen, waited out goalie Marc-Andre Fleury - which seems to be his patented move these days - and beat Fleury with the backhand shot.
The lead was short-lived.
Jordan Staal took a drop pass and Dustin Brown came up to challenge the young forward, but Staal put a high, long-range shot on net that beat Quick and tied the game.
The Kings were outshooting the Penguins 17-9 midway through the second period when defenseman Brooks Orpik took a shot from the top of the right circle. Chris Kunitz, stationed in front, tipped the puck past Quick to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead with 9:09 remaining in the second period.
``We talked a couple times in the game,'' Murray said ``in the first-period and second-period intermissions, about needing more of a sustained kind of attitude. There were shifts that we were very good. We made the right decisions getting it in, we were able to cycle the puck. Then we came back out, two or three shifts later, and we were trying to get a little cute, a little fancy, trying to do something special as we crossed the offensive blue line.
``I thought, in the third period, we finally got all of our people on board and everybody was doing the right stuff.''
The Kings never really let up, and the first line came through again to tie the game in the third period.
Williams’ shot from the middle of the right circle was stopped, but the puck deflected behind Fleury. Kopitar went behind the net, grabbed the puck and pushed in the rebound on a wraparound to tie the game at the 6:17 mark. Drew Doughty also got an assist.
The Kings later scored two huge goals in a span of 23 seconds.
First, after the Kings killed a penalty, Fleury went behind the net a pushed a puck along the boards. Brown hustled and beat Mark Eaton to the puck and made a perfect centering pass. Stoll controlled it and whipped a wrist shot to the far post that beat Fleury.
Then, on the next shift, Alexander Frolov controlled the puck behind the Pittsburgh net, went to the front and tossed the puck through the crease. It went through some sticks and skates, and Handzus got his stick on the puck and beat Fleury at the 12:32 mark for a 4-2 Kings lead.
The final goal might have been the nicest. Stoll, with the puck in the slot, flipped a backhand pass down low to Brown. Already going to the net, Brown fired from a sharp angle to the right of the net and beat Fleury with 2:30 remaining.
``You expect teams to play well,'' Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. ``You expect teams to come hard and that was certainly the m.o. for this game and they came hard. When you don’t execute against that, you’ve put yourselves in situations where you’re going to have to deal with defensive-zone coverage and turnovers, and that forces you back on your heels, and they did a great job of that tonight.
This is the best 16-game Kings start (10-4-2) since 1992-93 (also 10-4-2)...It’s tied with the 1992-93 club for the fifth best start in club history (most points after 16 games was 25 in 1974-75, 10-15)...The Kings are 6-0-2 in their last eight games...Jonathan Quick has a 2.08 GAA and .913 save percentage during the point streak...The last time they had points in eight straight was Nov. 2-18, 2000 (6-0-2-0)...The eight-game point streak is the tied for the fifth longest in club history...It took Anze Kopitar 50 games to get 13 goals last season (Feb. 5)...Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams have combined 48 points (20-28=48) in 11 games together...The Kings have killed 24 of 27 penalties in the last eight games (88.8 percent)...The Kings are 8-1-0 when Kopitar scores this season (47-22-8 all-time when he scores)...There were some celebs spotted in the stands: Twilight's Billy Burke, American Pie and Election's Chris Klein and Dancing with the Stars' Tony Dovolani and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
1 - 0 LAK
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PIT
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 LAK
4 - 2 LAK