SAN JOSE, Calif. - Anze Kopitar knew from recent experience that a week off sometimes leads to trouble on the ice. He also knew the Los Angeles Kings needed to take advantage.
Kopitar and Dustin Brown each scored first-period goals and the Kings ended a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. The Sharks hadn't played since losing an overtime home game to Anaheim on Nov. 17.
"I'm not going to say they weren't ready," Kopitar said. "It's just you're not as sharp as you would be after a normal week of playing a game or two. We had a week off earlier and we were a little rusty. Obviously, the two goals were important."
Jason LaBarbera stopped 26 shots as the Kings won their first road game since beating the Sharks at San Jose three weeks ago.
"We can't get too excited about one win," LaBarbera said. "It's been frustrating the past few weeks losing the way we did, but it's nice to beat a first-place club like this."
Milan Michalek scored a goal and Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves, including a penalty shot, as the Sharks lost for the first time in seven games despite playing their first game in six days.
"We should have taken the first five minutes to get our legs back and it took us two periods," San Jose's Steve Bernier said. "It's frustrating. Sometimes the puck doesn't want to go in. You have to credit their goalie because he made some nice saves."
Kopitar created the Kings' first goal when he took the puck away from the Sharks and slipped it back to the point midway through the first period. Tom Preissing took the pass and fired it toward the net from on top. Brown, standing in front of Nabokov, deflected the puck through the goalie's legs.
"Getting the first goal was a huge boost for us," Brown said. "We were able to sustain the offensive pressure and we played our best defensive game of the season."
Kings coach Marc Crawford agreed that the defensive effort was the key.
"I thought as much as we got a great performance from Jason, our defence group as a whole was very good," Crawford said. "We didn't give them many quality chances. Our guys played really well."
Kopitar's power-play goal gave the Kings a 2-0 lead with 34 seconds left in the period. The Sharks' Torrey Mitchell had a chance to clear it, but Michael Cammalleri made a good play to keep it inside the blue line.
Lubomir Visnovsky made a quick pass to the right circle, where Kopitar slapped it into the net for the Kings' first power-play goal in 21 man-advantage situations.
"Right off the bat, we were moving the puck well," Kopitar said. "We were getting some shots on the net."
The Sharks entered with the NHL's best penalty kill and had erased 49 of their previous 51. It was Kopitar's second road goal of the season, and his first since Oct. 18.
"We didn't think the game clean in the first period," the Sharks' Mike Grier said. "We needed to keep it simple and make smart plays. We made a couple of mistakes and it cost us."
The Kings were satisfied running the clock until Sharks centre Joe Pavelski won a faceoff against Camalleri in the Kings' zone and Michalek scored on the one-timer.
Pavelski brought it to his back hand and slipped it to Michalek, who took a quick shot that beat LaBarbera, who was otherwise solid.
Notes: Nabokov has started 29 successive games in goal, the league's longest active streak. ... The Sharks have allowed the fewest second-period goals in the league, and haven't given up one in six straight after allowing seven in their previous six games. ... Kopitar recorded his team-leading seventh multipoint game. ... Kings LWs Kyle Calder and Raitus Ivanans each returned to the lineup after missing eight and seven games, respectively.