LOS ANGELES (AP) – Drew Doughty is the only Los Angeles Kings defenseman with much of a reputation around the NHL. His fellow blue-liners showed they’re also worth watching during a remarkable second period against Pittsburgh.
Jake Muzzin had a goal and two assists during the Kings’ four-goal second and Los Angeles held off the Penguins 5-3 Saturday for its third consecutive victory.
Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Doughty also scored for the first-place Kings, while Milan Lucic scored twice in their fifth straight home win.
Los Angeles had just eight goals from its defensemen in its first 24 games, but the Kings added three more while Muzzin matched his career high in points. Already one of the NHL’s top defensive teams, the Kings got three goals from defensemen in a game for the first time since 2007, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“I think we don’t get much respect in those terms,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “Everybody just talks about Drew, and it just goes down from there. It’s something that even after last season we felt that we were top-10 in production from our defense, and that’s what we expect.”
Jonathan Quick made 17 saves to beat Pittsburgh for just the second time in his career, and the Kings scored five goals in a game for the first time this season.
Two of the NHL’s most effective defensive teams yielded six combined goals in a wild middle period, with Muzzin matching his career high in points over a 10-minute span.
“I think we gave up a little too much tonight,” Muzzin said. “But as long as we keep finding ways to win, that’s what we’ve got to do. … Everyone (on the defense) is playing well. Maybe the personnel isn’t as highly touted, but the way we play and our character back there is the same.”
Chris Kunitz had a goal and two assists for the Penguins, who lost in regulation for just the second time in eight games. Sidney Crosby had a third-period goal and an assist, and Olli Maatta scored in his return from a six-game injury absence.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots in the second stop on a four-game West Coast trip for Pittsburgh, which had won three straight in Los Angeles. Even with the previous three days off, the Penguins started slowly.
“You expect good starts from (the Kings),” Crosby said. “You expect them to be physical. I just thought it took us a while to get our feet under us and get the compete mentality that you need against a physical team like that. We got to it eventually, but it wasn’t something that we established early on. It was too little, too late.”
Doughty started it with his fourth goal of the season just 4 seconds into a power play. The Norris Trophy finalist has scored goals in consecutive regular-season games for the first time since Oct. 19-21, 2013.
Ehrhoff, who played 49 games for Pittsburgh last season, added his first goal for the Kings with a well-placed shot from a setup by Marian Gaborik. Lucic then scored his eighth goal off the rush.
Kunitz answered with his fourth goal 23 seconds later from the slot, but Muzzin was left unmarked for his second goal of the season just 58 seconds after that.
Maatta scored late in the second, and Crosby deflected home his sixth goal of the season early in the third.
“I don’t think we were good enough today as a team,” Maatta said. “Everybody has to do a better job of competing and winning those puck battles.”
Gaborik earned a penalty shot with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation, but Fleury stopped him.
Lucic added an empty-netter for his first multigoal game with his new team.
NOTES: The teams meet again Friday in Pittsburgh. … Fleury shut out the Kings twice last season. … Kings F Trevor Lewis sat out with an upper-body injury. In his place, Jordan Weal suited up for just the fourth time all season. … Penguins D Letang sat out with an undisclosed injury.
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