LOS ANGELES -- Just when things couldn't get worse for the New Jersey Devils, they fell to the bottom of the NHL standings and lost one of their best players all in the same game.
Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus scored for the Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Devils 3-1 Saturday night at Staples Center to improve to a League-best 8-3-0. The Devils fell to 3-7-1, and their 7 points are the fewest in the NHL.
Devils left wing Zach Parise, a four-time 30-goal scorer, left the game in the second period with what the team is calling a lower-body injury and did not return. Parise will return home to New Jersey to be examined by team doctors and won't be with the team when they head to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Monday. His leg appeared to bend awkwardly after he fell to the ice as a result of a clean hit by Kings left wing Kyle Clifford.
The big story coming into Saturday's game was Ilya Kovalchuk playing in front of the fans he spurned during his free agency this past summer. The sellout crowd of 18,118 serenaded him with boos when he came over the boards for his first shift and continued every time he touched the puck.
"That's always happened," said Kovalchuk, who had just 2 shots and hasn't registered a point in three games. "It's not the first time I've been booed. It's nothing new for me."
The Devils poured 39 shots on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was at his best during the third period when he stopped all 20 shots he faced. Kovalchuk said after Friday's 2-1 win in Anaheim that it would take more than two goals to win on a consistent basis, so he didn't take solace in the amount of pressure the Devils poured on the Kings since it didn't result in goals.
"Who cares how many shots we put on net?" a frustrated Kovalchuk said. "It's only one goal, and you're not going to win a lot of games with one goal. We have to find a way to be better. It's a five-man unit. The way the 'Ds' helped us in the third period, I think that made a big difference. We created a lot of chances and we played almost all 20 minutes in their zone."
Meanwhile, the Kings were playing the same team game they have all year, getting contributions from all of their lines.
Williams opened the scoring at 6:52 of the first period with a beauty of a goal. A 3-on-2 rush broke down to a 2-on-1 with Stoll and Williams bearing down on Devils rookie defenseman Tyler Eckford. Stoll dished the puck to Williams, who undressed Eckford with a gorgeous toe drag before snapping a shot that beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to the stick side to make it 1-0 Kings.
Handzus made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 9:32 of the second period. Stoll earned his second assist of the game by taking a shot that Brodeur couldn't control. Handzus whacked the rebound out of mid-air to score what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
"It seems like we're finding when one line's not going one game, other lines are picking it up," said Stoll, who capped a three-point night by scoring 24 seconds after Devils defenseman Matt Taormina cut the Kings' lead to 2-1 midway through the second period. "Our depth is really coming through right now. All the lines are contributing. All the defense are contributing. Obviously our goaltenders are great.
"That's what you need. Not every line and not every player is going to have a great game. Someone's going to have an off-game here or there. As long as we're picking it up and as a team we're strong, our team game is the most important thing."
Stoll's goal was a back-breaker for the Devils, who were showing signs of life leading up to Taormina's goal.
"It's frustrating when you get a goal on the board to make it 2-1 and then give up a goal on the next shift," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "Those are big moments in the game where you got to come out with your best and we just weren't doing that."
The Kings find themselves in familiar territory at the top of the conference. Last season, they jumped to a 10-4-2 start and were near the top of the West for most of the first half. Coming out of the gate hot helped them absorb a stretch where they lost seven of 10 between December and January and maintain a playoff spot at season's end.
That's why the importance of this season's start isn't lost on Kings coach Terry Murray.
"Sure, it has meaning," Murray said. "Your goal is to win hockey games, and it's nice that we're putting points on the board early in the season. We get off to a really good start last year and it paid off for us. There's always going to be a lull some time and you have to have that cushion to fall back on and it's good to see that we're off to that same start again this year."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo