Drew Doughty won the battle of 2008 's top draft picks. The Los Angeles Kings won the battle to take the lead in the overall NHL standings.
Doughty and the Kings shut down Steven Stamkos, the NHL's top scorer, and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, while Justin Williams' third-period goal and Jonathan Quick's 24 saves were enough to give the Kings a 1-0 victory.
The victory -- L.A.'s first ever against the Lightning at the Staples Center -- put the Kings (9-3-0) into first place in the overall standings with 18 points, two more than the Lightning. Before a sellout crowd that included Wayne Gretzky, the Kings improved to 5-0-0 at home, their best home start since the 1980-81 team began the season with seven consecutive wins at the Great Western Forum.
For two teams that have no history of a rivalry, the game was very physical, with the Lightning credited with 36 hits and the Kings with 29. The intensity ratcheted up as the game went on.
“Just looking at their lineup before the game, no, but after that things got emotional," Kings center Anze Kopitar said of the playoff-like physicality and intensity. "I think everyone was into it and everyone was fired up, so it’s no surprise after that.”
"It was pretty intense for a game against a team you only see once a year," said Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 20 points.
Tampa Bay had been 5-0-2 at the Staples Center and 10-1-2 in Los Angeles. The Lightning's lone loss came on Nov. 6, 1997, at the Forum.
But the Lightning have managed just five goals while going 1-1-1 in the first three stops of their four-game road trip, which included a 3-2 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday. They finish the trip at San Jose on Saturday after dropping one point behind Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference.
"When you play a team like Tampa, with all that firepower, you’ve got to focus on a really good checking game, and I thought we did a pretty good job tonight," Kopitar said. "They didn’t get a whole lot of high-quality scoring chances, so that’s definitely satisfying. Maybe next time we should score a few more goals, so it’s not as close, but two points is two points, and we’ll take it.”
Doughty, chosen one pick after the Lightning took Stamkos with the top choice in the 2008 Entry Draft, returned after missing six games with a concussion and led the Kings in ice time with 24:44. He was a big reason the Kings held Stamkos to three shots on goal and limited the Lightning to a handful of good scoring chances -- but so was the hard work by the Kings' forwards, who backchecked hard enough to keep the Bolts away from the net for most of the night.
"Obviously we played solid defense," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "I think we had a lot of good plays, smart plays, coming through the neutral zone, which prevented them from turning the puck over on us."
Quick and Tampa Bay's Mike Smith matched saves until a turnover by the Lightning resulted in the game's only goal 5:20 into the third period.
Tampa Bay defenseman Mathieu Roy's outlet pass deflected off teammate Dana Tyrell's skate to Ryan Smyth, who made a quick backhand pass that found Williams behind the defense. Williams controlled the pass while spinning from his backhand to his forehand in front of Smith before scoring for his fourth consecutive game.
"That was a playoff game, and nobody was going to give each other an inch," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "There wasn't much out there for either team. It was going to be (a loss) for who made that mistake, and we made that mistake."
Doughty gave the Lightning a power-play opportunity shortly after Williams' goal when he was called for charging after he flattened Tampa Bay's Steve Downie with a hit in the neutral zone. The Kings killed the penalty, and Downie later tried to get back at Doughty, but missed him on a big hit in the corner and wound up in a scrap with defenseman Willie Mitchell that earned him a fighting major and a misconduct.
"A little old-time hockey with the scrums going on there," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It was very competitive -- both teams battled hard."
The loss was the first of the season for Smith after four victories -- and the first of his career in six decisions against the Kings.
The teams battled evenly through two periods, with the Kings getting the best scoring chance midway through the second period when Kopitar came in on a shorthanded breakaway only to be denied by Smith, who stopped his backhander. The Kings had a five-minute power play in the first period when Mattias Ohlund drew a boarding major, but generated just two shots during the extended advantage.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report