LOS ANGELES (AP) — After three years of underachievement, the Los Angeles Kings want to get back in championship form.
Drew Doughty thinks their outstanding start to the season shows they’re on the way.
Doughty scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play with two minutes left in the Kings’ 4-2 victory over the winless Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Doughty and Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist apiece for the Kings, who improved to 3-0-1 under new coach John Stevens. Los Angeles hasn’t won a playoff series since winning its second Stanley Cup title in 2014, but the Kings have earned at least one point in each of their first four games for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
“We want to start the season off right,” Doughty said. “Right now, if we had lost the first three games or lost a couple of them, the mood in the room wouldn’t be where it is right now. We are at a high right now. We are really confident in each other and in the team, and we just feel good about ourselves. That all changes if we start losing, so we’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
Just four seconds after Evander Kane went to the box for tripping, Doughty connected on a one-timer for his first goal of the season and Los Angeles’ third power-play goal of the night.
Dustin Brown scored his fourth goal in four games and Jonathan Quick made 23 saves in another grinding victory for the Kings. Tanner Pearson added an empty-net goal.
“It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is,” said Stevens, who spent the previous seven seasons as an assistant coach in Los Angeles. “Those points are extremely important, especially when you’ve got some new people here. You’ve got some young guys in our lineup. You want to get off to a good start, get some points in the bank and hopefully build a little confidence in the group, so I think it’s extremely important.”
Quick gave a boost to his teammates with an outstanding save early in the third period, stretching his body and extending his stick to block a point-blank scoring chance by Seth Griffith.
“Quickie made an absolutely stupid save, and I think that kind of changed momentum,” Toffoli said. “It made us realize that it’s time and Quickie is battling, so after that we kind of stuck together and just scored big goals at the right time.”
Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist for the Sabres, who dropped to 0-4-1 under new coach Phil Housley.
“I can’t fault our guys for their effort,” Housley said. “I mean, 5-on-5, we were a better hockey team. It’s just unfortunate that they got three power-play goals and our power play didn’t get anything in return.”
Toffoli scored early in Los Angeles’ three-goal third period, but Eichel tied it for Buffalo less than two minutes later, converting his own rebound. The goal was Eichel’s second since agreeing to his eight-year, $80 million contract extension before the season.
Zemgus Girgensons scored an early power-play goal and Robin Lehner stopped 26 shots for the Sabres.
“It’s frustrating,” Kane said. “We’re obviously trying to get our first win of the season. We have to try to cut the cord here and focus on that and not have this linger over us tomorrow night (in Anaheim).”
The Sabres have lost in their last five trips to Staples Center, but at least they got on the scoreboard after dropping the previous four by identical 2-0 scores. Buffalo has scored 11 goals in its first five games this season.
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez had two assists in the third period while making his season debut. He sat out the first three games with a lower-body injury.
NOTES: Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo had the night off due to the flu. … Sabres forward Jordan Nolan was welcomed back to Staples Center, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 as a grinding forward with the Kings. Nolan was recognized on the scoreboard, as was former Kings assistant coach Davis Payne, now an associate coach under Housley. … Los Angeles rookie Oscar Fantenberg got his first career point with an assist on Toffoli’s goal from the slot.
Sabres: At the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Kings: Host the New York Islanders on Sunday.
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