The group of older men stood just outside of the Kings’ locker room, some wearing the jerseys of their sons, all wearing the proud smile of a father.
One by one, the sons came out to greet them in suits. It almost felt like a graduation reception, somewhat fitting after the Kings finished schooling the Dallas Stars with a strict defensive game Tuesday at American Airlines Center.
The Kings nodded to their fathers, along on this trip, by shutting down the fourth-highest scoring team in the Western Conference, 3-0, behind Darcy Kuemper’s 28 saves and a thorough job by the line of Anze Kopitar on the Stars’ top line centered by Jamie Benn.
“I think the desperation of playing a team ahead of us in the standings really brought the best out of us tonight,” Kuemper said. “[It was] against a top line that’s as dangerous as any line in the league and we hardly gave them anything tonight.”
The Kings even produced some souvenir pucks for their fathers. Paul LaDue scored his first NHL goal and Drew Doughty his 100th career goal to pass Steve Duchesne for second on the Kings’ all-time defensemen scoring list, behind now-general manager Rob Blake.
“Now I’ve got to catch Blakey,” Doughty said.
Doughty’s father, Paul, joked that he had waited three weeks for his son to score No.100.
“He’s the one that made me aware that I was at 99, actually,” Drew said. “I had no idea. He’s obviously is really happy about that and to do it for him while he’s here is awesome.”
Kings coach John Stevens won his matchup against longtime mentor Ken Hitchcock, who continually sent out Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin against Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Tyler Toffoli. The Benn line was on the ice for both of the Kings’ even-strength goals.
“I thought they did a really good job of forcing them to play in their own zone,” Stevens said of Kopitar’s line. “They didn’t give up odd-man rushes. They had good depth in the offensive zone.”
Kuemper has stopped 58 of 59 shots in two games in place of Jonathan Quick. He said that “the guys made it so easy in front of me that it was just fun to go out there and play” Tuesday. His best saves came on Radulov at the start of the third period and on Brett Ritchie on a breakaway late in the game.
The pressure was eased on Kuemper three minutes into the game thanks to LaDue, who snapped a shot high from the right circle after Kopitar carried the puck through the zone and steered a pass to him. It was the first time in nine games the Kings got the game’s first goal.
“It was unbelievable,” LaDue said. “I played a few games last year and I couldn’t get it. But it felt even better to get the win and to contribute to the win, and to have my dad [Jay] here has made it even more special.”
Doughty scored on a slap shot that trickled in on the power play at 5:01 of the second period. Alec Martinez made it 3-0 just 65 seconds into the third period on a throw-it-on-net shot that eluded Stars goalie Ben Bishop and left the crowd of 17,655 glum.
Marian Gaborik was scratched because of a minor, undisclosed day-to-day injury. The Kings were also missing regulars Derek Forbort and Nick Shore. But there was no missing those who were on the ice.
“I think the last couple of games the commitment you can see [with] guys in the little puck battles and defensively, their awareness of where their guys are,” Kuemper said. “That’s how we’ve got to play, so we’ve just got to keep doing this and I think we’re ready to take off if we do that.”