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Kings take a big step forward

November 21, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

The Kings were acting all grown up and seemed ready to put the adolescent phase of this rebuilding project behind them Thursday.

There was maturity in the way Kyle Quincey sailed up ice and slipped the puck to Dustin Brown for what seemed to be a practice-drill goal in the third period. That finishing moment in a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals at Staples Center was a rite of passage.

Either that, or it was a night where kids being kids wasn't such a bad thing.

That is where the Kings sit right now. They aren't the talent-poor franchise that scoured the bottom of the Western Conference the last two seasons, but they haven't reached that they're-coming-to-town terror level that others in the conference hold.

Yet, the direction seems right.

"I don't think there is anyone in hockey who wouldn't say this organization is moving forward," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said.

"Even when I was playing for the Ducks the last couple years, you could see things changing with the Kings. Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward."

Before Kings fans send in money for playoff ticket deposits, O'Donnell was ready with a cautionary tale.

"It doesn't happen in one night, where it's, 'OK, you've got it,' " he said. "You have to work to become that organization that everyone knows is going to show up and be there every night."

The Capitals were coming off a rough-and-tumble game with the Ducks on Wednesday and seemed sluggish throughout Thursday's game. Yet the Kings handled them in brush-off fashion.

"That is a talented team," Brown said. "We came out and dominated. That was domination."

Defenseman Drew Doughty had that I'm-as-good-as-you look staying in step with Washington Capitals forward, and NHL darling, Alexander Ovechkin. Doughty's first-period goal, which went off Ovechkin's stick, gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 14 minutes into the game.

Doughty also took down Ovechkin as he bulled his way to the net with the Kings protecting a one-goal lead in the third period.

The trio of Anze Kopitar, Patrick O'Sullivan and Brown had that top-line appeal. Each had a goal, with O'Sullivan breaking a 1-1 tie with a second-period goal that ended his 11-game goal-less streak.

Erik Ersberg made it nine consecutive games where he seemed a No. 1 goaltender, stopping 19 shots.

It was, Brown said, the proper response to a two-game losing streak. One that -- dare Kings fans dream -- a playoff-caliber team would make?

"I don't think anyone around the league, media or fans, would honestly say we had a shot at the playoffs when the season began," Kopitar said. "We were too young. Everyone knew we were a rebuilding project.

"Our goal was to make the playoffs, but that sounds so cliche. So when the season started, we tried to bond as a team, and try to stay around .500 and get better. We've done that so far, so now can we take the next step."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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