The Los Angeles Kings
are playing their best hockey since the days of Wayne Gretzky.
L.A. tied a franchise record with its eighth consecutive win when Dustin Brown
scored the tie-breaking goal with 5:32 left to lead the Kings to a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks
-- their fifth in a row in the "Freeway Faceoff."
had a pair of goals, including one in the final minute, and set up two others. Defenseman Jack Johnson
scored once and added three assists for a career-best four-point night. The Kings needed all that offense, as the Ducks overcame a 4-1 deficit with three third-period goals before Brown put the Kings back on top.
“It’s definitely not what we want," Kopitar said of the frantic third period, "but at the end of the day, the two points are the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how you get it, but it just shows that we cannot let down, especially not in the third period. We got the fourth goal early, and you’ve got a three-goal lead.
"We’ve got to learn to shut the games down. We’ve done it before. We just can’t let down and we can’t back off like that.”
The Kings haven't won eight in a row since 1991-92, when a team led by Gretzky matched the mark set in 1972-73. Jonathan Quick
, who's been in goal for all eight games, broke the franchise record for consecutive wins by a goaltender held by Kelly Hrudey and Robb Stauber.
“It’s been a pretty good run right now," defenseman Matt Greene
said. "Guys are playing well. It’s not often that you get 10, 15 guys playing their 'A' game all at the same time. It’s pretty spread out. Right now, we’ve got a lot of guys playing at the top of their game, and I think that’s showing in our play."
Quick, who stopped all 22 shots in a 4-0 win at Staples Center the last time the teams met, is 13-3-0 in his last 16 games. His 33rd victory of the season gave him the League lead, one win ahead of New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, and put him within two wins of the club record set in 1980-81 by Mario Lessard.
At 35-19-3, the Kings are off to their best start after 57 games since 1980-81. The victory moved the Kings into fourth place in the West; L.A. and Phoenix both have 73 points, but the Kings have one more victory.
Anaheim took an early lead on a goal by newcomer Jason Blake
5:40 into the game. But the Kings scored the next four goals and appeared to be on the way to an easy victory when Johnson scored 1:44 into the third period for a 4-1 lead.
But the weary Ducks, playing their third game in four nights and coming off an emotional 3-1 home win over Detroit on Wednesday, wouldn't go down without a battle. They overcame the deficit when Troy Bodie, Matt Beleskey
and Ryan Carter scored in a 6:24 span to get Anaheim even with 10:25 remaining.
"We knew we had to put on more pressure," goaltender Jonas Hiller
said. "We had to play in their end to have some chances to score. It's great the way we found a way to come back and tie the game; we just couldn't keep it like that.""
Carter's tap-in quieted the sellout crowd at the Staples Center. But Kings coach Terry Murray said losing the lead may have calmed his team somewhat.
"We were reeling a little bit when the score got to be 4-3 and then it was tied," he said. "But we settled down. We relaxed and said, 'We don't have to protect the lead any more. Let's just go play the game.' I think we started to play much more organized after that."
The Kings regrouped and went back in front to stay when Brown pumped a rebound into a wide-open net after Hiller made an arm save on Kopitar, who then added a power-play goal with 27 seconds to play.
"We had a tough battle last night," Hiller said. "But I still think we should do a better job. We lost too many pucks in our zone. We had our chances -- we came back in the third (period). That's the positive part, because we've got to start thinking about the next game.
The loss ended Anaheim's three-game winning streak. The Ducks are 11-5-0 in their last 16 games and remained three points out of a playoff berth. The Kings and Ducks have never qualified for the playoffs in the same season since Anaheim entered the NHL in 1993.
The Kings appeared to be in bad shape after first-line right wing Justin Williams
broke his right leg during a 2-1 loss at Phoenix on Dec. 26. They lost their next two games, both by one-goal margins, but are 12-4-0 since.
Greene said the Kings are getting the performances they need from their big guns.
"Our top players are doing it," he said. "Brownie, Kopi, Smitty (Ryan Smyth), Jack (Johnson) tonight, they were great for us. (Defenseman Rob Scuderi
) has been unbelievable, and it all starts with Quick too. If your core guys, offensively and defensively, are at the top of their game, all at the same time, you’re going to have success."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report