The Los Angeles Kings are turning the Staples Center into the NHL's toughest place for visiting teams.
The Kings improved to 7-0-0 at home this season, matching the best start in franchise history, by beating the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Thursday night. Justin Williams scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 13:09 to play and Jonathan Quick made 27 saves in L.A.'s fifth consecutive win overall.
Captain Dustin Brown and Jack Johnson also scored for the Kings (11-3-0), who have 22 points after 14 games -- matching the 1974-75 team for the best start in club history. The perfect home start through seven games matches a mark set by the 1975-76 and 1980-81 clubs. The Kings can break the record Saturday night by beating the New York Islanders, who've lost nine in a row.
"Every team is coming in here expecting a hard game, and they're raising their games accordingly," Brown said. "We're not going to catch anybody by surprise this year. If we've got to play a physical game, we have big, strong guys who can answer the bell. I think we can handle it."
This one cost more than a few bruises. Both teams came out hitting after a four-day break, and the physical play continued all night.
"It was intense," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "I thought the second and third period got revved up pretty good. For the early part of the year, as it is, the intensity was high, the compete was high. Of course, you’ve got two division teams and that always adds a little bit to it."
Count Stars' center Adam Burish among those impressed with the Kings.
"They're one of the best teams in the League," Burish said. "This was a fun game to play, and it will make us better down the road."
Jamie Benn scored and Kari Lehtonen stopped 26 shots for the Stars, who had won three of four before committing too many third-period penalties.
After costing the Kings a second-period goal by interfering with Lehtonen, Williams put the Kings ahead to star when he controlled the puck near the side boards and fired a wrist shot past Lehtonen, who was screened by Ryan Smyth.
Kings coach Terry Murray was very pleased with the way his team rebounded after the disallowed goal.
"You have to have a good response," he said. "We’ve talked forever about the importance of the shift after a goal, whether you’ve scored or you’ve given one up, how important that is -- and I think we kind of approached it the same way."
Burish hurt his team's comeback hopes with 3:57 left when he was hit with a boarding major and a game misconduct for sending Kings defenseman Drew Doughty face first into the boards. Johnson put the game away by scoring during the power play with 2:48 to play.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him," Burish said. "I was just trying to get position. I feel terrible for putting the team in a position like that."
The Stars hurt themselves with 26 minutes in penalties during the third period.
"Penalty trouble got us again," center Brad Richards said. "You can't spend that much time in the box in the third period. Sometimes it's a penalty, sometimes it's not. It's a guessing game every night. When you've got people going after guys' heads and some of it's called and some of it's not, that's when you get a little confused out there."
Brown scored 6:13 into the game, but Neal tied it at 17:04 when he stole the puck from Doughty in the Kings' zone and beat Quick with a backhander.
"We know we're not going to come in here and score five goals, so you have to be patient," Richards said. "The power play is going to have to get some chances, which we didn't get until the end. They have a good goaltender, so you've got to work for what you get. We're going to have to start winning some 2-1 games."