One point behind San Jose and Washington for most points in the NHL.
A 7-3-1 record with Ryan Smyth, one of their best players, out of the lineup.
A 14-0 record when leading after two periods and a 10-1-3 record in one-goal games.
Are the Kings exceeding expectations? Coach Terry Murray actually had to pause before answering the question, after the Kings pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at STAPLES Center.
``We're coming together a little bit faster than maybe what I anticipated,’’ Murray said. ``We want to keep the standard high. The bar has been raised, and we want to make sure that we're giving ourselves that chance every night. But yeah … we're exceeding a little bit, but not by five or six games. I expected us to be in pretty good shape at this time.’’
The Kings have 43 points in 33 games, one point behind San Jose – the Sharks have one game in hand over the Kings -- and two points ahead of division leaders Calgary and Chicago, although both of those teams have a couple games in hand.
Murray, wisely, didn’t get too deep into the hyperbole. For all their surprising success so far, the Kings still have four months to play in this season, and the deep Western Conference won’t get any easier in the second half of the season.
Still, the Kings, who improved to 6-0-1 in their last seven games, have put off some positive signs, most notably their 8-1-1 record against Pacific Division rivals.
``It's huge,’’ Kings defenseman Jack Johnson said. ``We've got to win our Western Conference games, and particularly in our division, and try to keep the gap going between us and everyone else in our division. We're just working to try to catch San Jose at this point. They're a great hockey team, and if we can stay close to them throughout the entire year, if not pass them, we will be pretty successful going into the playoffs.’’
The Kings’ only divisional loss came to Phoenix, in the season opener. Since then the Kings have beat the Coyotes four times, although they got pushed to the brink Thursday.
The Kings led 2-0 less than 14 minutes into the game, on goals by Oscar Moller and Johnson, but then they continued their recent, disturbing trend of losing two-goal leads.
Scottie Upshall scored late in the first period, and Radim Vrbata scored 3:12 into the third period to tie the game. It took eight shootout rounds – the longest shootout in Kings history – to decide the game, when finally, Justin Williams scored for the Kings and Jonathan Quick made the game-ending stop on Scottie Upshall.
``The guys dug in,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``It wasn't always the prettiest out there tonight, but we found a way to get it done.’’
The Kings dressed seven defensemen –one more than usual, as Davis Drewiske returned to the lineup after a two-game absence -- and 11 forwards Thursday, and the makeshift fourth line came through with the game’s first goal.
The Kings' ``fourth'' line -- Oscar Moller and Brad Richardson, with Wayne Simmonds picking up an extra shift -- got the game. Simmonds got control of the puck on the right boards, went behind the net with speed and centered the puck to Moller, who picked out the top right corner of the net and beat goalie Ilya Bryzgalov 4:11 into the first period.
Johnson, who assisted on Moller's goal, gave the Kings a 2-0 lead. Johnson's rocket slap shot rang off the goal post, and the puck came out so hard that Johnson got to one-time his own rebound. The shot deflected off Upshall and into the net with 6:23 remaining in the first.
The Kings once again showed an inability to hold a two-goal lead for long. They got caught on the wrong side of a 2-on-1 break, and with only Rob Scuderi back, Matthew Lombardi passed across to Upshall, who one-timed a shot past Quick with 3:05 left in the first, just 3:18 after Johnson's goal.
The Coyotes tied the game, on the power play, 3:12 into the third period. Zbynek Michalek took a slap shot from the left side that Quick saved, but Martin Hanzal whacked at the rebound and Vrbata knocked the puck over the line.
``You hate to get behind like that, but we battled back hard and ended up getting the equalizer in the third,’’ Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. ``We’ll take the point, but I think there were two (points) to be had tonight. There were some decent chances but I thought we could execute a lot better in situations.
``The chances we were giving away were a lot of unforced errors on our part. In the end, we come in and recognize we can do things a little bit better, take a point and move on.’’
LAKings.com's NOTES · The Kings are the first Western Conference team to 20 wins
...The Kings have won three straight and are 6-0-1 in their last seven (season high for point streak is eight games: 6-0-2)
... The eight rounds was the longest shootout in Kings history (previous high was seven)
... The Kings are 16-3-3 when scoring first and 14-0-0 when leading after two periods
... The Kings are 8-1-1 vs. Pacific Division
... The Kings are 10-1-3 in one-goal games
... Six of the last seven games have been one-goal games (6-0-0)
... Jarret Stoll extended his point streak to six games (3-4=7)
... Dustin Brown has six points in the last six games (1-5=6)
... Jack Johnson has seven points in the last six games (1-6=7)
... Wayne Simmonds has nine points in the last nine games (4-5=9)
... The Kings 43 points is tied for the fourth-best 33-game start in franchise history (1988-89 club also had 43 pts: 21-11-1)
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