For the Kings, still in the early stages of their latest but most promising rebuilding process, progress is usually measured in small increments.
Occasionally, they take big steps, as they did Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars at Staples Center that gave them their first three-game winning streak this season.
"It's given us confidence and teaching us what we need to do to grind out wins," team captain Dustin Brown said after he extended his personal goal-scoring streak to three games.
Brown wasn't around for the shootout, which went to five rounds after the Kings' Wayne Simmonds and Dallas' Mike Ribeiro scored in the second and third rounds, respectively. Alexander Frolov scored in the top of the fifth with a forehand that eluded Marty Turco, and Kings goaltender Erik Ersberg stopped a wrist shot by Mike Modano to secure the victory and delight the crowd of 13,823.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, November 13, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Kings hockey: In Wednesday's Sports section, a column on the Kings' game against the Dallas Stars said the Kings were short-handed for the last minute of the third period and the first three minutes of overtime. It was the first two minutes of overtime.
Brown was ejected with a minute left in the third period after getting a major boarding penalty and automatic game misconduct for a punishing shoulder hit that sent Ribeiro hard into the boards. Brown also got a five-minute fighting major for battling Brenden Morrow, who avenged Ribeiro's facial injury.
The Kings (6-6-2), though short-handed for the last minute of the third period and the first three minutes of overtime, held firm. That's due to the ferocious example set by Brown and matched by his teammates after he left.
The Kings outshot Dallas, 26-21, and have outshot their opponents 10 times. They also blanked the Stars' power play four times and scored once on their own power play.
"It's great," Frolov said. "I think we get some confidence now."
The NHL has been cracking down on hits from behind, and referees Kerry Fraser and Brad Meier used the discretion given them in Rule 42.3 of the rules book to give Brown a major penalty "based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards."
Brown didn't consider his hit dirty.
"I don't think they called a penalty originally. I think they called it after he was hurt," said Brown, who had given the Kings a 2-1 lead at 16 minutes 46 seconds of the first period on a sharp-angle shot.
"He's spinning around. I'm going to finish that hit. It's unfortunate that he went into the boards. He was spinning as I was hitting him. He was trying to make a play on that. I'm finishing my check. If that's five more feet in the neutral zone, he's knocked down and we're going to overtime."
Frolov agreed that "the guy was turning," and said the Kings were not going to be deterred by that call.
"We knew it's our game and we deserved to win it and we just stick to this," he said.
The Kings played hard, as they have for most of the season. They've lost by more than two goals only once, and that's a major advancement for a team that gave up too early too often last season. They were relentless physically, ending up with a 36-30 edge in hits. Brown led the team with six; Derek Armstrong, a late replacement for Oscar Moller (flu-like symptoms) had four and defenseman Denis Gauthier had four.
"It's Dallas and it's divisional," Brown said to explain the frequent hitting.
The Kings scored the game's first goal during a two-man advantage, at 6:50 of the first period, when a shot by Jarret Stoll deflected off Dallas defenseman Steve Ott.
Dallas pulled even after a giveaway committed by Anze Kopitar. Brad Richards centered it into the slot to Ott, who couldn't get off a good shot. But Jere Lehtinen, making a delayed season debut after being slowed because of a groin pull, was able to fire it home from the lower part of the left circle at 14:17.
The Kings regained the lead at 16:46, thanks to Brown's persistence. He stole the puck high in the zone and passed to Kopitar, whose shot was repelled by Turco's right toe. But Brown captured the rebound, and took a shot that caromed in off Turco while the goalie was on his knees and spinning.
The Stars pulled even at 9:46 of the second period.
Modano carried the puck into the zone and passed it to Sergei Zubov, who sped down the left side. Ersberg, anticipating Zubov would shoot, moved toward the right post and was out of position when Zubov instead passed to Modano for a shot from a sharp angle deep on the right wing.
Despite losing Brown, the Kings didn't lose the game. That, too was a big step forward for a team that appreciates any small progress it can find.