The Kings not only played up to the level of their opposition Monday in a 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins, they played up to the standard they set in winning 12 of their first 15 games this season, and that's saying a lot.
Combining muscle, finesse, staunch defense and clutch goaltending, the Kings beat one of the best teams in the East and won two games in a row for the first time since they defeated the Ducks on Dec. 26 and the Sharks on Dec. 27 at San Jose.
That's not much to brag about for a team that had higher aspirations. But their victories at Phoenix on Saturday and at Staples Center on Monday -- their first home shutout of the Bruins since Oct. 13, 2000 -- reinforced their belief they can regain a spot among the top eight in the West and again become the force they were in October.
"Two big wins against two quality teams," goaltender Jonathan Quick said after stopping 34 shots to record his fifth shutout this season and the 13th of his career. "We know we can play with the best teams in the league. We've just got to do it on a more consistent basis."
Ryan Smyth scored off a rebound at 10:50 of the first period to end the Kings' 0-for-22 power-play drought and Andrei Loktionov popped home a rebound at 3:30 of the third period against Tim Thomas, the NHL's goals-against average and save percentage leader. In between, the Kings moved the puck well, defended smartly and got a spark when Kyle Clifford fought Shawn Thornton and signaled that he and his teammates wouldn't be pushed around.
"Kyle Clifford is one bad dude. He just keeps doing his job extremely well," defenseman Matt Greene said. "That was huge tonight for us, that fight. It was a big lift for our team."
The Kings, who had lost three of their previous four games and 10 of their previous 13, were persistent in every area of the ice. They gave up more than 30 shots for the first time in eight games but improved to 15-0-0 in games they've led after two periods.
"We were good defensively, but at the same time we were still getting our chances offensively," Greene said. "Any time our cycle game is going, it's going to be a good thing for us. Quickie was great, as he always has been this year."
Quick got early support from -- brace yourself -- a power-play goal, the Kings' first in eight games. "Those are good times," Greene said with his typical deadpan delivery. "Everybody likes those."
Towering defenseman Zdeno Chara was sent to the penalty box for hooking Anze Kopitar at 10:16 of the first period and the Kings needed only 34 seconds to score. Drew Doughty had the puck at the right point and passed across to Jarret Stoll, who took a shot that deflected off Smyth and popped up. Smyth whiffed on his first attempt but connected on his second try for his first goal in eight games and 18th this season.
"This one started right from our goaltender and I thought we played solid defensively," Smyth said of the overall effort. "We didn't give up a whole bunch and capitalized on special teams tonight, which we've been lacking as of late."
Loktionov, who started the season with the Kings but was in the minor leagues until last week, scored his first goal since Oct. 20. Kopitar created the chance by stealing the puck in the Kings' zone and dashing up ice on the right wing. He cut and passed to Dustin Brown, whose shot was stopped by Thomas. Loktionov, who has looked poised and skillful in three games since he was recalled, potted the rebound from close range.
Winning two straight games isn't a cause for celebration, but it's better than not having a winning streak at all. "We just hit a tough time, and we hope we climbed out of some of the issues we were dealing with and that we can keep it going," Coach Terry Murray said. "I really like our last two efforts in the early part of games. We just have to keep building on it."