Dustin Brown has endured a difficult week.
The Kings’ captain battled a case of flu, heard Coach Darryl Sutter say he had become stale offensively, and found himself the subject of persistent trade rumors.
He responded Saturday night with a commanding performance that should make him and Sutter feel a lot better and quiet some of the rampant speculation.
Brown scored the Kings’ first three goals against Chicago for a natural hat trick, the third hat trick of his career, and assisted on their final goal in a 4-0 rout of the surprisingly listless Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center.
Brown and Jarret Stoll (three assists) each matched their career-high marks as the Kings won for the first time in five games and only the second time in eight games. Goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 19 shots for his seventh shutout this season.
New acquisition Jeff Carter played more than 17 minutes in his Kings debut, mostly on right wing alongside Mike Richards and Dwight King, and did not figure in the scoring. Defenseman Slava Voynov, recalled after Jack Johnson was sent to Columbus in the Carter trade, played capably in his return.
Brown’s first goal, at 10 minutes 48 seconds of the first period, was made possible on a terrific rush by Stoll starting in the Kings’ end. Stoll carried the puck up the right side, crossed to the middle and cut to the left without resistance before dropping the puck back to Brown. As a right-handed shooter on the left side, Brown had a good angle to whip a shot that appeared to glance off Corey Crawford’s glove before getting past the goalie.
The Kings killed a five-on-three disadvantage and capitalized on a power play late in the period for a 2-0 lead.
The faceoff was in the Blackhawks’ zone after Viktor Stalberg was sent off for boarding at 17:43, and Stoll won the draw from Marian Hossa. Stoll slipped the puck back to defenseman Alec Martinez, whose shot was stopped. But Brown was perfectly positioned to go to his backhand and lift the rebound past Crawford for his 16th goal this season. He had gone 11 games without a goal before he scored at Phoenix on Tuesday.
Brown completed the natural hat trick at 4:56 of the second period on a shorthanded goal, set up nicely by Willie Mitchell. That was the last shot seen by Crawford, who was replaced by Ray Emery.
The Kings, who began the game averaging a league-low 2.05 goals per game, nearly doubled that at 6:49 of the second period. Stoll, matching a career high with his third assist, rode Nick Leddy off the puck and got it to Brown, who passed back to the point to Mitchell. The defenseman’s blast — with Brown standing in front — got past Emery for Mitchell’s fourth goal this season.