LOS ANGELES — The Kings finally earned a win against the San Jose Sharks and had positive injury news for a change as well, welcoming back veteran defenseman Alex Edler as part of a 3-0 victory on Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena.
The Kings have earned points in six of their last eight games, including five victories, but two of their three losses in that span came to the Sharks. Overall, they’ve won just four of their past 15 meetings with San Jose across three seasons and needed Thursday’s win to avoid being swept in the four-game season series.
Still missing nine other players, Edler’s recovery was a significant boost. He broke his ankle on Dec. 12 during a nasty fall after his skate became entangled with the sideboards. Edler, 35, could have ended up missing the season, but instead came back well before the prognosis of a return at the end of March. He drew in for Christian Wolanin, registering 13:42 of ice time and two shots on net.
Centers Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault each scored a goal for the Kings, both of which were assisted by defenseman Sean Durzi. Forward Adrian Kempe added an empty-netter. Cal Petersen, who got the nod in net despite Jonathan Quick’s pregame ceremony in honor of his 700th career game last week, stopped 29 shots en route to his fourth career shutout (three this season).
James Reimer made 24 saves for the Sharks, who were shut out for the seventh time this season.
The Kings drew more infractions, performed better in both areas of special teams and took smarter penalties than they did in earlier matchups with San Jose.
“Our game was a lot more assertive this time around. We didn’t really wait and feel our way into the game, we went at them,” Kopitar said. “It was nice to get on the board on the power play, too, and obviously not giving anything up on the PK.”
Though Petersen had to be sharp as San Jose pressed on in the third period, including storming his net and getting traffic in front of him, the Sharks failed to score.
Early in the period, defenseman Jordan Spence, who has assumed a large role instantaneously since his debut a week ago, turned the puck over during a Kings power play and Danault’s slash of forward Tomas Hertl prevented a clean breakaway.
Petersen took care of the rest.
“Solid. Confident. Not a lot of garbage lying around for second chances,” Coach Todd McLellan said of Petersen’s game. “His concentration level was real good tonight.”
San Jose’s fate was sealed when Kempe sent a long shot into the vacated cage with 2:56 remaining.
The Kings had extended their lead with 3:33 left in the second period on a play that Danault started with an offensive-zone faceoff win and finished by putting back a rebound from Durzi’s point shot.
Danault, who famously told the press corps that he and his wife conceived their first child on the night that he and the Montreal Canadiens advanced to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, became the father of his second child, a baby girl, on Wednesday.
“With everything that’s going on in the world, there’s some happiness in his house and we’ve added another one to the King family,” McLellan said. “His play, I think it speaks for itself … his leadership skills are off the charts, he’s definitely captain material.”
San Jose had some near-misses in the second period. Winger Rudolfs Balcers hit the post with a deflection so close to a score that the goal light was illuminated. Hertl had a late-period breakaway that forced Petersen to oh-so-narrowly make an unorthodox save. Hertl took himself off the trade market on Wednesday, when he signed an eight-year contract extension worth more than $65 million.
Just before the seven-minute mark of the middle frame, the Kings cashed in on the power play. Kopitar’s far-side snipe finally snapped him out of his goal-scoring rut. His team-leading 52nd point was his 16th goal, having seen 10 games pass since No. 15. He had gone a career-high six games without a point. Ten games wasn’t his longest stretch without a goal, but perhaps his most frustrating.
“It’s always in your head. I don’t think I’ve gone through a struggle like this before, ever, so it’s nice to get off the schneid. But more importantly, it’s nice to win a game,” Kopitar said.
As for the rest of the top line, Kempe also scored for the first time in 11 games, albeit into an empty net, while Alex Iafallo extended his career-long goal drought to 17 games.
In the opening period, the Kings recorded the game’s first six shots. That was thanks in part to a stirring shift early from Kopitar, Kempe and Iafallo, as well as a late chance for Kempe.
“They looked the way they should tonight,” McLellan said. “They didn’t give up near as much as they have … and then they were pretty determined shooting the puck. Juice hit the post, Kopi had chances on the power play and they scored a power-play goal.”