The mojo between Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown has reached a point where they can combine for a goal even though neither actually put the puck in the net.
Midway through the first period Sunday, Kopitar executed what seemed like a called shot in a game of H-O-R-S-E: Through the defender's legs, off another defender's stick and between the goalie's legs.
His intended pass to a driving Brown unfolded in that exact pattern against the New York Islanders.
It was an instant snapshot of the Kings through five games.
Brown and Kopitar have scored eight of the Kings' 16 goals, and they combined for a great defensive play that led to the game-winning short-handed goal in a 3-2 win at Staples Center.
"I think they've been big-time leaders of our hockey team through training camp," Kings coach John Stevens said.
"I think they've been tremendous on both sides of the puck. It's nice to see Kopi and Brownie get off to good starts offensively. … They're playing the game the right way, and they're representing the identity of the hockey team that we want to have, and it's great to see."
The announced crowd of 18,230 fans for a rare Sunday night game witnessed the best five-game start in Kings history at 4-0-1. Darcy Kuemper was victorious in his Kings debut and Jake Muzzin scored on an all-cylinders power play that is four for six after a 0-for-16 start in the first three games.
Drew Doughty sealed it with a short-handed goal, the second of his career, in the third. "I've always wanted to be a forward again, but I don't know if that will ever happen," Doughty said. "When I get my chance to get up there, I'm going to get up there."
The Kings' three previous wins came against teams that have a combined five wins, and the Islanders are not considered contenders, either, despite having one of the best centers in the world in John Tavares.
The Kings countered with their own world-class center in Kopitar, who distracted Tavares away from the puck to start the possession on his score. His fourth goal of the season represents a polar turnaround from last season, when his fourth goal came Jan. 9.
Kuemper played in the preseason but it was his first regular season game since April 8, with the Minnesota Wild. He didn't see his first shot until nearly seven minutes into the game, and the Kings' strong possession game made for a quiet start in their end.
Kuemper got a lot busier in the opening 10 minutes of the second period. The Islanders took back the ice and got rewarded with their first goal when Josh Bailey whacked in the puck from his knees in the slot. They pulled to 3-2 with 5:39 remaining on wraparound by Casey Cizikas.
Kuemper made 23 saves, including 10 in the third period. "There's a few areas I need sharpen up," Kuemper said. "But I felt pretty good about it. I thought the guys defended hard and made it easy to come in for not playing for a while. My hat's off to them. I'm just very happy with the win."
Doughty drew high praise from Stevens for his defensive matchup with Tavares, to make Kuemper's night run smoothly. "Drew just seemed like he ramped up his intensity," Stevens said. "When the game got bigger, he got better. … He wants to make a difference, and he was a difference maker tonight."