Kovalchuk drew the ire of many fans this summer when he ended a month-long free-agent flirtation with the Kings and instead signed a massive contract with New Jersey.
Those fans made their voices heard Saturday night, loudly booing Kovalchuk every time he touched the puck, but in the end, Kings fans were able to cheer and celebrate their team’s 3-1 victory over the Devils before a sellout 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
The Kings won for the fourth time in six games without top defenseman Drew Doughty, who might be able to return from a concussion in time for Thursday’s home game.
With the victory, the Kings improved to 4-0 at home and now have a four-day rest after playing seven games in the previous 11 days. The Kings will go into the mini-break with 16 points – most in the NHL – in their first 11 games.
``It feels good,’’ Stoll said. ``We know there is a lot of work ahead of us. We're 11 games in. There's definitely tougher hockey and more important games to follow, so we've got to keep going, keep getting better. We know we've got a good team. We've got a lot of positives. We've got a lot of character. We've got a lot of good things going, but you've got to win games too. All that is talk unless you win out there.
They can also take some quiet satisfaction in keeping Kovalchuk off the score sheet.
Kovalchuk signed a 15-year, $100-million contract with the Devils and now has three goals and three assists in 11 games. Six Kings -- Jack Johnson, Anze Kopitar, Williams, Dustin Brown, Stoll and Ryan Smyth – have more points than Kovalchuk this season.
Stoll was asked how much attention he paid to the fans’ booing of Kovalchuk.
``You just play the game,’’ Stoll said. ``It was kind of funny to see their reaction. That's great. I liked it. It was fine. Every time he had the puck, we did a good job of smothering him and making sure we had one or two, or sometimes even three, guys on him. He had nowhere to go. So it was a great team effort defensively.’’
The Kings had their own standouts to celebrate Saturday. Stoll had one goal and two assists and Quick made 39 saves to improve his personal record to 7-1 this season. The Kings survived a scoreless third period despite being outshot 20-4.
``He was real good in the third period,’’ coach Terry Murray said of Quick. ``(The Devils are) just opening up the flood gates there. The D are pinching down. That's the first time I've ever seen New Jersey Devils D pinch as often as they have. It's just a very aggressive attitude, to stay after us. I'm sure they were talking about us coming back (from the road trip) and that there was going to be fatigue in our game. And they were right. We needed Quick to be good, and he was.
Williams put the Kings on the board first. Ryan Smyth carried the puck into the New Jersey zone and passed to Stoll, who then dropped a pass for Williams. Williams did a slight spin-and-drag move around Devils defenseman Tyler Eckford and beat goalie Martin Brodeur with a wrist shot 6:52 into the game.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal 9:32 into the second period. Stoll took a one-time shot from the top of the left circle and Brodeur made the save but Handzus, parked in front of the net, took a whack at the rebound and puck trickled past Brodeur to give the Kings a 2-0 lead. Jack Johnson also got an assist, his eighth assist in 11 games this season and seventh assist in his last six games.
The teams traded goals 24 seconds apart in the middle of the second period.
New Jersey got on the board with 9:22 remaining in the period, when a slap shot by Matt Taormina from just inside the blue line found its way through traffic and beat Quick.
``It was a bit of a screen,’’ Quick said. ``Still, the guy was pretty high out. I kind of wish I had that one back. But it happens. The team responded. We came back and scored a big goal right after that, and we were able to shut them down for the rest of the game.''
The Kings' two-goal lead returned with 8:58 remaining. Rob Scuderi's point shot went wide, and deflected hard off the end boards. Stoll was there to knock in the puck with a backhand shot before Brodeur could get back in position. Williams also picked up an assist.
``That was a great response,’’ Murray said. ``That was a much-needed response. That Stoll line went right back out there immediately. Scuds shoots the puck at the net, and there was a nice little redirection for Stoll to put it in.
``But that's the kind of intensity that line showed us all night long. They were real good. They were on the puck, they were smart with the puck in the offensive zone and still, at the same time, very responsible on the checking part of the game.’’
Before the game, the Kings took time to recognize a big part of their recent past. Norstrom, a King from 1996 until 2007, was presented with a watch, a gourmet coffee maker and a framed version of the No. 14 jersey he wore with the Kings.
Snap shot -
1 - 0 LAK
Wrist shot -
2 - 0 LAK
Wrist shot -
2 - 1 LAK
Backhand shot -
3 - 1 LAK
Delaying Game-Puck over glass