Dustin Penner's two-assist performance Tuesday in the Kings' 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators is why they maintained their faith in him through stretches when he was invisible — or worse — and through a five-game winless streak in which they scored only eight times.
Penner's first multi-point effort as a King in his 32nd game was forceful and skilled, qualities he has shown only rarely, alone or in combination. He set up second-period goals by Mike Richards and Simon Gagne as the Kings scored more than three goals for only the third time this season and won for only the second time in eight games.
"Whatever I was in, I'm glad I'm out of it now," Penner said. "It wasn't for the lack of trying and doing everything outside the game to get ready. There was a few injuries that maybe didn't help me and maybe got inside my head but now everything is feeling good."
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier improved his record to 5-1-0 against the Predators. They've provided nearly a third of his 16 career victories.
Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll each contributed two assists, and defenseman Drew Doughty, who must be an offensive catalyst for the Kings to succeed, scored his first goal of the season. The Predators made the final minutes tense when Patric Hornqvist scored after goaltender Anders Lindback was pulled in favor of an extra forward, but the Kings held on.
"We really had to come out of that losing skid," Doughty said. "We weren't happy with the way we were playing throughout that time, and to finally get a big win tonight was huge."
An early outburst gave the Kings two goals in the first six minutes and 13 seconds, as many goals as they had scored in any of their previous five games. But they coughed up the puck and the lead before the first intermission.
Defenseman Alec Martinez scored the game's first goal, at 4:29. With the Kings on the power play, Martinez took a slick pass from Williams and flicked a one-timer past Lindback from the right circle for his first goal this season.
Doughty extended that to 2-0 with a slap shot at 6:13 off a pass from Stoll.
"That was about time," Doughty said. "I had a bunch of chances and the pucks weren't going in for me."
Nashville cut the lead to 2-1 at 10:41 while the teams were skating four on four. Martinez couldn't control the puck in front of his own net and it went onto the stick of Matt Halischuk, who scored from close range.
A power-play goal put the Predators even at 16:02 after Gagne was sent off for interference in the offensive zone. The Kings had two chances to clear the puck out of their zone, and the second try, by Jack Johnson, went directly to Craig Smith, who scored from inside the left circle about 35 feet out.
The Kings regained the lead at 9:28 of the second period, on the rush. Dustin Brown, a right-handed shooter skating up the left wing, passed across to Richards, a left-handed shooter skating up the right side. Richards, on the move, rifled a hard shot past Lindback for his third goal.
Gagne padded that to 4-2 at 12:33, just after a Kings power play had ended. Gagne, standing in front of the net, deflected a blast from Penner past Lindback. The second assist went to Williams, who has 12 points in 15 games.
In one of the few down notes of the evening, winger Scott Parse suffered a lower-body injury during the first period and did not return.
The next challenge for the Kings is doing this again. And again. Penner can help by making performances like Tuesday's the norm, not an exception. "Especially considering what happened the last couple games even at home, it was great to get this one out of the way and kind of break that mental block that we had," Penner said. "There's a lot of stuff that we can take away that's positive from this game."