Depleted at center by Anze Kopitar’s ankle injury and Jarret Stoll’s one-game suspension, the Kings found strength Saturday in their defense, their long-dormant power play and their much-tested character.
Drew Doughty tied a club playoff record for defensemen by recording four points in a 4-0 victory over the Sharks that tied the teams’ first-round playoff series at one game each and was a reminder of the dominant force he has too rarely been this season.
Doughty scored twice in addition to assisting on a power-play goal by fellow defenseman Jack Johnson and an even-strength goal in the third period by rookie forward Kyle Clifford, emptying HP Pavilion well before the final horn.
Games 3 and 4 will be played at Staples Center on Tuesday and Thursday.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick wasn’t terribly taxed while stopping 34 shots and earning the Kings’ first playoff shutout since Felix Potvin stymied Colorado in a 1-0 victory on April 25, 2002, and sixth in their playoff history. He was busiest in the first period, stopping 15 shots, but his teammates’ early support gave him little to worry about.
“Guys dug in. We had a big effort from everyone in this locker room,” Quick said.
Much of that effort came from Doughty, who matched a record set by Paul Coffey in 1992. He also had a four-point game against the Vancouver Canucks last spring.
“We had a lot of adversity before this game, with two of our top centers out,” Doughty said. “I guess a lot of people probably didn’t think we had a chance tonight. But I guess we showed those people wrong and played a hard, solid team game.”
Doughty had taken the Kings’ series-opening 3-2 loss Thursday hard. He was beaten badly on one goal by San Jose center Logan Couture, a childhood friend, and Doughty stewed over that.
“I definitely was a little more motivated. I was upset I messed up on that one goal in the first game,” he said. “I thought I played a good game tonight, and I’m just looking forward to taking this momentum back to L.A.”
The second-seeded Sharks will use the break to take stock of themselves.
“We’ll challenge our group and expect more,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “I think we’re going to have to look at each other when we come to the rink [Sunday] and ask if we gave enough.”
They gave the Kings enough early power-play chances. The Kings finished two for six with the man advantage but converted each of their first two chances to build a 2-0 lead in the first period.
The seventh-seeded Kings had lost their previous four playoff games — three to Vancouver last spring and the opener of this series. Doughty did a lot to end that streak.
“He and Jack stepped up. Those two and Quickie were our best players,” said Stoll, who is eligible to return Tuesday from his suspension for hitting Sharks defenseman Ian White from behind.
The Kings’ power-play success was a dramatic turnaround from their struggles during the regular season and reminiscent of their 10-for-26 power-play success against Vancouver a year ago.
“We were moving the puck well,” Doughty said. “We studied their penalty killing and saw their tendencies and we exploited them. We moved the puck quick, found seams, got pucks to the net and we had a great net presence as well.”
On their’ first goal, scored at 12:13 of the first period with Sharks forward Ben Eager serving a slashing penalty, they got goalie Antti Niemi to go side-to-side as Doughty moved the puck cross-ice to Johnson. Ryan Smyth screened Niemi as Johnson blasted a shot that became his first career playoff goal.
Sharks winger Ryane Clowe went to the box for elbowing Doughty, who got revenge by scoring at 15:43. Doughty took a pass from Smyth before unleashing a slap shot from about 40 feet that was a blur as it got past Niemi.
The Kings padded their lead in the second period at even strength. Doughty moved from the right-wing boards toward the middle of the ice, and with Oscar Moller providing a screen, Doughty took an ice-skimming shot that skipped past the helpless goalie at 15:42.
Clifford provided the final flourish by backhanding a rebound home at 4:54 of the third period. Doughty called his assist on that one “cheesy,” but there was nothing tacky about this victory for the Kings.
Still, Quick sounded a note of caution as players packed their bags for the charter flight home.
“At the end of the day it’s just one win. We need three more to move on,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Game 3 and looking forward to trying to get the same result.”