LOS ANGELES – Ask the Los Angeles Kings if they are measuring themselves against the San Jose Sharks and other elite Western teams this season, and you will get varied answers.
Some downplay the divisional dynamic with San Jose, while others are quite aware that they have not fared well against the top-tier squads.
Count Ethan Moreau among those who acknowledged that Monday night's 2-0 victory against San Jose was one of their bigger triumphs.
"We had something to prove," Moreau said. "I know it's early in the season. But we're not happy where we are in the standings. We're not happy with the losses that we had … we just wanted to prove to ourselves that we belong as an elite team, and we have to start proving that in the standings. Tonight was a good start."
L.A. rode its formula of tight defense behind goalie Jonathan Quick, who recorded his fourth shutout this season and backstopped a penalty killing unit that kept San Jose’s fifth-ranked power play scoreless in five tries.
Mike Richards finished off Simon Gagne's pass early in the second period for his eighth goal in 10 games, and Moreau scored his first goal as a King in the first period.
Los Angeles was previously 0-4 against San Jose, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver. Any extra meaning they took from the victory carried the subplot that Monday was the first meeting between the teams in Los Angeles since San Jose eliminated L.A. in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals.
Quick was among those who beat the drum that this is a new season.
"We're trying to build something here this year and that's all we're focused on," said Quick, who got his 18th career shutout in his 200th career game.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is that the Kings can be an effective penalty killing unit that has now killed 18 straight penalties.
"We had a little bit of a stretch there where we weren't happy with the PK," Quick said. "We had a string of five or six games where we let up a goal in each. It's something that we've been t great at the past couple of years and it’s something that we've really been putting a big focus on the past few games."
Former Philadelphia teammates, Richards and Gagne were reunited on the same line for the first time this season in one of Terry Murray's wholesale line changes made Sunday.
Los Angeles isn't known for its even-strength offense, but it got a goal from Richards during 4-on-4 play to take a 2-0 lead in the second period.
Willie Mitchell jumped into the play to get the puck to Gagne, who skated behind the net and fed Richards for a quick tap-in through Antti Niemi's pads at 4:16.
San Jose had plenty of opportunity after that. The Sharks' power play got three chances in the second period, but still had a zero on the scoreboard because of nice work by Quick and a shot by Dan Boyle that clanged off the post.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan scalded his team for a lack of work ethic for only its third loss in nine games, and at least one Shark agreed.
"You have got to find a way to get up for every game," Boyle said. "Some nights are tougher than others, but at the end of the day, you have to find a way. As a team, you have got to get up for it. There's no reason why. These guys are in our division."
McLellan was clearly agitated.
"I want to know where they went between the second and third to find it (energy)," he said. "It's really disappointing because we came out and played hard in the third. So it made it even tougher to swallow."
Asked how much of a difference Quick made, McLellan said, "Zero in the first two periods because we didn't have any chances. It didn't matter who was in goal. We weren't near the net. We didn't create anything. In the third period we played very, very well."
Monday was L.A.'s first game with new combinations on its top three lines, but it was the fourth line that provided the opening goal.
A turnover by Justin Braun in the corner gave the puck to Moreau for an innocent looking shot that hit Niemi's glove and into the net at 8:37. It was Moreau's first goal since Oct.9, 2010.
The Kings put 16 shots on goal in the first period, or more than half of their 28.9 per game average.
L.A. had a goal disallowed with 13:59 remaining, when video review determined that Slava Voynov used a kicking motion to direct the puck.
San Jose scratched checking center Michal Handzus while Frazer McLaren made his season debut. McLaren underwent hip surgery in September.
A Kings spokesman said late Monday that winger Scott Parse will have his hip evaluated by a specialist next month and the team will then decide if surgery is needed. Parse has two goals in nine games this season.