SUNRISE, Fla. -
|It's a bit of a home coming for Kings head coach Terry Murray, who started his head coaching career with Florida.
It was one of the defining moments of the Kings’ 2008-09 season, and not in a positive way. On Jan. 12, bulky forward Evgeny Artyukin, then with Tampa Bay, smashed Kings defenseman Drew Doughty
along the boards.
The hit was, by most accounts, clean, but after the game, coach Terry Murray seethed at his team’s lack of a reaction. Sean O’Donnell had cross-checked Artyukhin after the hit, but Murray felt the team, in general, didn’t do enough to support Doughty.
On Saturday night, the Kings didn’t get a rematch with Artyukhin, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, but they did face the Lightning, who brought a physical presence to the game early. This time, though, Murray came away completely satisfied. (Kings 2, Tampa Bay 1 SO
Just over eight minutes into the game, Steve Downie knocked down Wayne Simmonds with a push to the back. Within seconds, Michal Handzus smashed Downie in the back, an incident that gave Tampa Bay a power play but, in the Kings’ eyes, sent a message.
"It was a great example," Murray said. "For a veteran player to jump in like that, it says, "OK guys, everybody is on board here tonight. We're all going to battle for each other.' That was clearly obvious to me, throughout the game."
Both teams were feisty. They combined for five roughing penalties, had one fight - the Kings’ Raitis Ivanans vs. Zenon Konopka - and Simmonds and Konopka received matching 10-minute misconduct penalties in the third period.
In those situations, teams have to be careful not to get out of control. The Kings gave Tampa Bay five power plays, but killed all five, and Simmonds said the Kings don’t have to take penalties in order to show that they won’t be pushed around.
"Just let them know that you're going to be there and that you're never going to go away," Simmonds said. "That's what it is. If they push, and we don't push back, they're just going to keep coming and coming and they're going to get more confidence if they think we're going to fold. I think we responded really well last night.
"We pushed back and kept on pushing. It showed there. There were a lot of scrums there, but that's hockey and that's how it's played."
Simmonds said he thought the Kings had made strides, since last season, in standing up for teammates.
"We're coming around," Simmonds said. "We're realizing that you can't be pushed around, because people are going to take you as a joke. That's not the way we play. We're a really tight-knit group in this dressing room, and we're going to stick up for each other." LOOKS FAMILIAR
The Kings, in town to play the Florida Panthers on Monday, practiced at the BankAtlantic Center on Sunday. Back in 1998, when it opened, it was called the Broward County Civic Arena, and Kings coach Terry Murray coached in its first hockey game. (Terry Murray Bio
Murray coached the Panthers for parts of three seasons, starting in 1998, after being hired by his brother, Bryan, the general manager. The Panthers missed the playoffs in Murray’s first season, made them in the second and Murray got fired 36 games into his third season. Florida hasn’t made the playoffs since then.
"The owner was great here," Murray said. "Wayne Huizenga was great. He was tremendous. 'Anything you need, anything you want, just give me a call.' He's that kind of a guy. He's just a garbage collector. That's how he started out in life, and he's a great, down-to-earth person. Really cared about the players and the team and would do anything. His wife was wonderful. So that always made it real enjoyable.
"The team was pretty good. We didn't make the playoffs the first year, but we kind of went through the process with a lot of changes, a lot of young guys, a big commitment to the youth, and the second year we made the playoffs. That's the last time, I think, the team made the playoffs. That's 10 years ago now. So it was good.''
After a rough 4-1 loss to Chicago and a devastating 7-0 loss to Atlanta, the Kings still have a chance at a winning record on this five-game road trip. Saturday’s victory over Tampa Bay put them at 2-2-0 with Monday’s game against the Panthers remaining.
"We just briefly touched on that at the end of the practice today," Murray said. "When I pulled them together at the end of the last drill, I said, 'Take the rest of the day and enjoy the sun, get a good meal and get re-energized and finish this trip off with a nice victory.'"
Florida is coming off consecutive shootout victories, 1-0 over Boston on Thursday and 5-4 over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun has recorded three shutouts in his last five games but did allow four goals on 40 shots against the Islanders. Vokoun has a 2.81 goals-against average this season.
The Kings have defeated Florida in four consecutive games and outscored the Panthers 16-5. The Panthers haven’t defeated the Kings at home since Oct. 26, 2001. (LAK vs. FLA History