While the San Jose Sharks got by the Los Angeles Kings in the opener of this home-and-home set, earning another two points could prove difficult at Staples Center.
The Sharks open a five-game road trip Saturday night against the Kings, who've been nearly unbeatable at home over the last month.
After getting outscored 15-8 during an 0-2-2 skid, San Jose (12-8-6) got back on track Thursday with a 4-3 win over Los Angeles (14-10-2). Logan Couture scored twice and added an assist as the Sharks posted more than three goals for the first time in 21 games.
San Jose improved to 14-5-2 over the last 21 meetings against the Kings, including ousting them in six games in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
"They're a California team as well, and we've had a rivalry with them for the last couple years," Couture, who's notched three goals and five assists during a five-game point streak in the series, told the league's official website. "It's always big to beat those guys."
San Jose received a huge momentum boost from Andrew Desjardins, who leveled Colin Fraser with a shoulder check midway through the second period. While the hit was clean, Jake Muzzin wasn't pleased and started a fight with Desjardins, a move that ultimately led to a pair of power-play goals for the Sharks.
"He turned the game totally around with that hit," said captain Joe Thornton, who registered his team-leading 21st assist. "We executed on the power play. We love when he plays like that, and he just has to continue to play like that."
Antti Niemi also came up big with 34 saves, 30 of which came in the first and third periods.
"We obviously needed all of them," said Todd McLellan, who became the winningest coach in franchise history with victory No. 207. "A bit of a relief, a milestone for us, however you want to put it. Now we have to go and do it again on the road for the next 10 days."
The Sharks, who have been limited to an average of 1.4 goals during a 2-7-2 stretch on opposing ice, figure to have their hands full in Los Angeles.
The Kings have outscored teams 35-18 over an 8-1-0 run at home.
Los Angeles, though, finds itself on the verge of a season-worst third consecutive regulation loss, and knows it needs to pick up the pace defensively. The Kings finished second in the league with a 2.07 goals-against average in 2011-12 but own a 2.62 mark this season.
"The last (four) games we've lost we've been giving up four or five goals," said captain Dustin Brown, who has five goals in his last three games after scoring twice Thursday. "Trying to climb out of 4-0, 4-1, 3-1 holes, it's not an easy thing to do.
"Our goals against have to come down. You look at why we were so successful last year, we weren't scoring a lot of goals but we were winning games 1-0, 2-1. We really have to tighten up our (defense)."
Jonathan Bernier stopped 13 of 14 shots Thursday after replacing an ineffective Jonathan Quick, who allowed three goals on 12 shots. Quick, though, is 6-1-1 with a 1.80 GAA over his last eight home games.
The Kings will need to look out for Patrick Marleau, who has 18 points in his last 15 games in the series, including playoffs.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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