There was no place like home for Jeff Carter and the Kings to roam free.
Returning to Staples Center after three weeks on the road against a San Jose Sharks team that had essentially owned them in their own barn, the Kings finally broke through Saturday.
Carter skated untouched down the left wing for a wrist shot that beat Sharks goalie Martin Jones for the game-winner in a 3-2 win that cleaned out some skeletons going into the New Year.
Carter continues to carry the Kings offensively, and his 20th goal nearly four minutes into the third period was a direly needed response after the Sharks scored 12 seconds into the third and again closed the deficit to one goal with six minutes to go.
But the Kings held on to end a six-game home losing streak to San Jose that included last April’s playoff series. Tanner Pearson and Drew Doughty also scored as the Kings never trailed and didn’t get too rattled by what appeared to be a questionable hit by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on Dustin Brown near the Kings’ bench late in the game.
“The key thing is getting the first [goal] and not chasing the lead right off the start,” Pearson said. “It is nice to be home. Everyone in the league takes pride of their home ice, and we’ve got to be there, too.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter before the game gave respect to defending Western Conference champion San Jose, which recently showed against the Ducks that it can win when it has an off night.
“They run pretty deep,” Sutter said. “They’re the best team in our division. That’s clear. … We got our work cut out.”
The Kings got out their scissors in the second period and didn’t let the Sharks play with the puck. San Jose, which didn’t have injured defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, took five shots in the period and didn’t have a scoring chance until the late minutes.
Doughty put the Kings up, 2-0, 91 seconds into the second period with a power-play goal. Nic Dowd zipped a cross-ice pass to him from the boards to the right point and Doughty leaned into a slap shot that tucked inside the far post with Brown screening Jones.
“I know they have a very good team,” goalie Peter Budaj said. “We always play them hard and they always play us hard. It’s a big win, especially after the two losses we had [to them earlier this season].
“We [did] the little things right: Block the shots, make the good pass. The back check was actually really big today because they have a very good transition team — especially the first line is very strong and we did a very good job against them.”
The Kings used the previous day to rest while the Sharks played the Philadelphia Flyers, and it showed at the start. The Kings came out with more pep, controlled possession and took 10 of the game’s first 13 shots.
Pearson converted one of them for his ninth goal just more than four minutes into the game. He skated freely to above the circles and beat Jones on the glove side with a wrist shot for his second goal in three games. Prior to that, Pearson had not scored in six weeks.
“We showed a lot of perseverance and focus and all that stuff,” Sutter said. “We had a tough month in terms of everything [that went] into the schedule.”
Almost all of the Kings’ goal scorers from the “Miracle on Manchester” game were honored in a pregame ceremony. Daryl Evans said it was the first time he had seen former teammate Steve Bozek since a year or two after the Kings’ famous 1982 comeback playoff win against the Edmonton Oilers. Charlie Simmer, Doug Smith and Jay Wells were honored as well.
April 10 marks the 35th anniversary of the 6-5 win, and Evans said “it seems like it was yesterday.” His overtime goal and playful celebration are shown on the video board before every game. “Just thank God there was end boards at the end of the rink,” Evans said. “Otherwise, I might still be skating.”