LOS ANGELES – One of the enigmas of the early NHL season is the Los Angeles Kings' offense. Despite the offseason additions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, they scored two or fewer goals in regulation in 12 of their first 14 games.
So what happened against one of the NHL's better defensive teams? An offensive explosion in the form of a 4-3 victory against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center on Tuesday night that ended L.A.'s five-game winless streak (0-3-2).
"I don't care who it's against or how many it is, as long as we get two points," center Jarret Stoll said. "Five-on-five, power play – whatever. You have to do the same things. We had more energy in the offensive zone tonight. We felt more relaxed."
Gagne and Richards scored in the second period and defensemen Alec Martinez and Drew Doughty had goals in the first. Even much scrutinized winger Dustin Penner picked up two assists as the Kings took back some confidence on home ice after they were shut out there twice earlier this month.
"Especially considering what happened the last couple of games at home, it was great to get this one out of the way and break that mental block we had," Penner said.
Nashville saw its five-game unbeaten streak snapped (4-0-1) and lost center David Legwand to an upper body injury in the first period. Preds coach Barry Trotz said Legwand won't play on Wednesday night at Anaheim.
Martinez scored a power play goal and Gagne's goal came one second after a penalty expired against the Predators' ninth-ranked penalty killing unit, which had previously killed 21 of 23 penalties.
Penner was in on L.A.'s third and fourth goals and notched his first multi-point game as a King. He freed up the puck to start a rush as Richards fed Gagne for a one-timer, and the latter deflected his shot past Lindback for a 4-2 led at 12:33.
Kings coach Terry Murray recently put Penner -- who had 1 assist in his first 12 games -- back on the second line with Richards and Dustin Brown, and the move seemed to be beneficial.
Asked if it was his best game as a King, Penner said, "Yeah, if you go by the way I've been playing lately, there hasn't been too much to write about and that's been my fault."
Nashville pulled to 4-3 on Patric Hornqvist's deflection of Ryan Suter's shot with 1:21 to go and had a shot at the end with the extra attacker. But Trotz traced the game to a 2-0 hole and the second period.
"I knew the start was going to be critical – we talked about it before the game," Trotz said. "And we got off to a terrible start."
Said Hornqvist, "We can't give them two-goal leads twice. That's not going to work in this League."
The negatives for the Kings were the loss of Scott Parse to a lower-body injury and careless play in the first period that allowed the Predators to erase a 2-0 deficit.
Craig Smith intercepted Jack Johnson's clearing attempt and snapped it blocker side past Bernier at 16:02 for an unassisted power play goal to tie it at 2.
Nashville converted during 4-on-4 play when Martinez couldn't control a loose puck in the slot and the puck found Matt Halischuk, who wristed it home to make it 2-1.
The Kings got the start they wanted with a pair of goals in the first 6:13, which just about met the 2.1 goals-per game average they carried into Tuesday.
Murray has talked about getting more offense from his defensemen, and that's precisely what unfolded early. Martinez one-timed a cross-ice pass from Justin Williams from the right circle just after a 10-second Kings two-man advantage expired. Doughty finally got his first goal of the year on a slap shot from the right point.
"I felt like I had a lot of chances, but the puck wasn't going in for me," Doughty said. "To finally get that monkey off my back, it gives me the confidence to continue to keep shooting. More and more pucks will go in for me."
Los Angeles was able to keep it in Nashville's zone when Teemu Laasko fell near the boards and lost the puck.
"They jumped on us quick," Craig Smith said. "Every time we made a mistake, they jumped on it. They've got a lot of guys that can play, especially at the back end. They were pressuring hard and their 'D' were coming up and making it tough on our forwards. They're a good team and they capitalized."