The questions of how the Kings would align their forwards and which goalie would start were not answered at their morning skate Monday.
The optional practice was just that — optional — with so few veterans on the ice.
Those questions were answered, definitively, in the evening when the Kings played the Vancouver Canucks, who were no match for a fully engaged and aggressive Kings attack in front of Jonathan Quick in a 3-0 Kings victory at Staples Center.
The Kings jumped into third place in the Pacific Division with their fifth win in seven games.
Quick’s 48th career shutout wasn’t much in question as the Kings clicked with new lines and goals by Tyler Toffoli, Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson.
“It’s good to get the win here, and in a good way too,” Pearson said. “We had a good solid defensive game and when we’re that way, we create a lot of stuff going the other way. We’ve just got to keep looking at this as a positive game and go into the next one like this.”
Kopitar’s second-period goal summed up the Kings offensively. His shot from the corner was deflected into the net by Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher, but everything leading up to it demonstrated how well the Kings clicked: Alec Martinez dived to poke the puck forward to Drew Doughty and Doughty whipped the puck up to Kopitar to start a rush.
Pearson, reunited with linemates Toffoli and Adrian Kempe, finished an outstanding game with a drive to the net to score against Vancouver goalie Anders Nilsson.
“I was really happy for the Kempe line tonight,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “I thought Ty really skated tonight, Tanner made a really strong power move coming out of the corner. We talked to that line on just how much we needed them to play like they did … earlier in the year. It could really balance out our attack, and I thought they did tonight.”
The Kings’ embarrassing 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues last Saturday, their worst home defeat in a decade, prompted changes. Tobias Rieder returned from a two-game benching and played on a line with Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis.
Carter was stopped on a two-on-one and on the power play in the first period as Nilsson looked like he’d make life difficult for the Kings. But the Kings grabbed the game tightly in the second period and broke through with Toffoli’s breakaway goal. Jake Muzzin hit Toffoli in stride with a 90-foot breakout pass from the corner and Toffoli snapped the puck past Nilsson’s glove for his 22nd goal.
Vancouver went into the game with a young lineup because of various injuries. But the Canucks still had Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the former stopped by Quick with an extended leg save late in the second period.
Doughty relished the Kings’ last game against the twins this season.
“When I play against them, it’s a mind game,” he said. “They’re definitely very good passers and good shooters. But they’re not physical. They battle hard but they’re not like a physical presence out there. They’re thinking the game ahead of everyone, so I have to try and think ahead of them. That’s why I like playing against them. It’s just a mental battle and a mental challenge.”
KINGS AT ARIZONA COYOTES
When: Tuesday 7 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: Arizona coach Rick Tocchet is on leave because of a family illness and assistant John MacLean will take over in the interim, the Coyotes announced. Darcy Kuemper got his first shutout with Arizona on Sunday.