When the going got tough Thursday, the Kings got tougher, matching the Dallas Stars jab for jab in a rugged game in which time and space were at a premium and tempers flared at the slightest provocation.
Playing their usual tight defensive game but adding the element of only their second and third power-play goals at Staples Center this season, the Kings defeated Dallas, 3-1, and tied a club record with their seventh straight home victory to start a season. The 1975-76 and 1980-81 teams also started 7-0-0 at home.
"You can't back down in this league," defenseman Matt Greene said of the physicality. "We can't shy away if we want to get points and win in the playoffs."
Justin Williams, whose speed racing up the right wing led Dallas' Mark Fistric to interfere with him and give the Kings a power play, scored the go-ahead goal at 6:51 of the third period when he ripped a shot past goaltender Kari Lehtonen from the left circle. Jack Johnson scored the final goal at 17:12 during a five-minute power play the Kings gained when Adam Burish was penalized for boarding Drew Doughty, whose helmet popped off after he was hit.
Doughty, playing his third game after recovering from a concussion, rose slowly from the ice but played in the ensuing power play. Coach Terry Murray later said Doughty was fine.
So were the Kings, who have won five straight games and seven of their last eight to improve to 11-3 and regain supremacy in the West. They extended their home penalty-killing success to 26 for 26, the only NHL team that hasn't yielded a power-play goal on home ice.
"It's an attitude out there. That's really what PK is all about," Brown said.
Scoring twice on the power play after converting only one of their previous 21 advantages at home did a lot for their attitude too.
"Not only did we get two goals but we got two pretty timely goals late in the game," Brown said. "It's not always about maybe having the best percentage but having big-time goals or goals at the right moment that can change a game around."
Williams' goal, his seventh, tied him with Brown for the team goalscoring lead. Williams has an eight-game point streak, with five goals and 10 points in that span. Goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 27 shots for the Kings.
The Kings' defensive efforts were especially impressive because it was their first game without defenseman Willie Mitchell, who fractured his left wrist last Saturday and is expected to miss six weeks.
"He eats up a lot of minutes for us and is a real steady, calming presence back there," Greene said. "It's tough not having him … but we can hold the fort until he gets back."
They defended the fortress well Thursday, though they gave up a goal late in the first period.
Brown scored the game's first goal, at 6:13, lifting a close-in shot after Anze Kopitar had thrown a centering pass in front. Dallas pulled even at 17:04, after Jamie Benn eluded a slow-reacting Doughty to barge in and beat Quick with a backhander.
Greene ended up with 17 penalty minutes after avenging a hard but clean hit by James Neal on Jarret Stoll in the final minute of the period. Stoll was bent over when he skated off but returned for the second period.
An apparent goal by Stoll late in the second period was waved off because of goaltender interference by Williams, but the main theme of the period was increasing hostility by these Pacific division foes.
"It was intense," Murray noted, the understatement of the night.
In the main event left wing Kyle Clifford — playing in his 10th game and activating his pro contract — pummeled former King Brandon Segal at 11:54, earning a round of applause from the announced sellout crowd of 18,118. A few minutes after the goal was waved off hostilities erupted, with Dallas' Steve Ott driving Davis Drewiske to the ice and Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins hitting Brown hard, sparking a fight between Ott and Drewiske.
"That game was fun," Johnson said. "It's not fun if there's no emotion. It makes it more like playoff hockey."
The way the Kings are going, they'll see a lot of playoff hockey this spring.