The Kings found some offense in their defense, welcomed home an old friend who is now a foe and got stronger as the game wore on during Tuesday’s win over the Panthers.
But there were also some interesting numbers that came out of the contest, with Darryl Sutter moving past Bob Berry into sixth place on the franchise list with 108 coaching wins; the team winning consecutive games for the first time in more than three weeks; and defenseman Drew Doughty, with 31:05 of ice time, topping 30 minutes for the sixth time in seven games to rank second in the NHL with an average of 28:56 of playing time a night.
Doughty celebrated with an assist, giving him four points in his last four games.
Here’s what else we learned:
Defensemen are people too
Sutter has been critical of his forward lines lately, shuffling the rotations and even dropping struggling captain Dustin Brown to the fourth line Tuesday. So against the Panthers, the Kings defensemen stepped up with each of the six back-line players recording a point in the team’s season-best four-goal second period.
Two of the goals went to Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr, neither of whom had scored all season.
“It’s good to see Robyn and Greene score,” Sutter said. “They don’t get much credit and they can give you the blue-collar [effort] every night. They are our two most consistent defensemen for sure.”
Jamie McBain also had an assist in the period for his first NHL point.
Willie Mitchell: Gone but not forgotten
Mitchell, a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Los Angeles, left for Florida in July. But on his first trip back to Southern California, the Kings and their fans showed their appreciation for what he accomplished here.
When the Panthers arrived at the Staples Center late Tuesday afternoon Sutter presented him with his championship ring. And during the first stoppage in play, the Kings ran a short montage on the video screen accompanied by the theme song from “Welcome Back Kotter.”
“I think I was OK with it,” Mitchell said of his emotions. “I just tried to play a simple game and not do anything outside my element.”
But Kings forward Anze Kopitar said his former teammate was clearly touched by the homecoming gestures and struggled to keep his composure.
“It seemed like he was holding it back a little bit,” Kopitar said. “It was good to see him for sure.”
Not surprisingly Mitchell, a defensemen, played well. He was on the ice for just one of the Kings’ five goals.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement
That’s Sutter’s take anyway. Because while the Kings got better as the game wore on – or perhaps the young Panthers simply got weaker – it was still far from a complete effort. In the first period, only some slick goaltending by Jonathan Quick kept the Kings from being burned on their penalty kill.
In the second period, the Kings took over the game but it was the third period that most impressed the coach.
“I thought we were good in the first and second [periods],” he said. “I thought we were really good in the third. We have to learn how to play 60 minutes.”