PITTSBURGH -- As much as the Kings' 3-2 victory over the Penguins was about numbers -- highlighted by their seven-for-seven penalty-killing effort as they tied a franchise record with their eighth straight road win -- their success was equally about their attitude and being at their best when the situation seemed to be at its worst.
In earning one-goal wins in Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh in a four-day span and in holding NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby to one assist Thursday while blanking the league's most potent power play, the Kings turned apparent adversity into an advantage to win their fifth straight game and 13th in their last 16.
They finished play against the East at 21-8-3, tying San Jose and St. Louis for the most wins by a West team against the East. One more number: Thursday's victory was their first at Consol Energy Center, though it was only their second visit.
SUMMARY: Kings 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
“We're happy with the way we're playing right now, for sure,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who was credited with the game-winner after he took a perfect drop pass from Dustin Brown and blasted a shot past goaltender Jeff Zatkoff at 3 minutes 51 seconds of the third period.
“We're coming together at the right time. We're playing hard. We're scoring goals, which we sometimes struggle to do. And we're playing good defensively, like always. To be hitting our stride at this point and beating some very good teams that we had to play in the East right now, that's a huge confidence booster.”
The Kings had some nervous moments while protecting that lead, after Penguins center Brandon Sutter -- nephew of Kings Coach Darryl Sutter -- pushed the puck past goaltender Martin Jones and into the net at 9:41 during a pileup in front.
Referee Steve Kozari initially gave no signal. After conferring with his fellow officials he said the puck had entered the net before the net was dislodged but the goal was negated by goaltender interference.
“I didn't have much of a view but I just felt the puck under me. I felt like I got pushed in,” Jones said.
Doughty said Brandon Sutter clearly interfered with Jones' pad. “Yeah, I gave him a few shots from behind,” Doughty said, “but that had nothing to do with his stick and pushing Joner's pad right into the net.”
Crosby, to his credit, didn't blame the Penguins' third straight loss on that call and said he had seen the rulings go either way in similar situations.
“That one doesn't go in, but we had six other power plays, too, where we could have had opportunities,” he said. “You can't really just look specifically at that.”
The Kings built a 2-0 lead on Jeff Carter's redirection of a shot during a power play by Marian Gaborik from the right circle at 15:23 of the first period and a long blast by Alec Martinez that bounced past Zatkoff at 6:59 of the second period, exactly two minutes after a penalty called on Pittsburgh's Tanner Glass.
The Penguins, 6-7-2 since the Olympic break, cut their deficit to 2-1 at 7:33 of the second period, when Chris Kunitz pounced on a loose puck during a scramble. They pulled even at 15:42 of the second period when a shot by Taylor Pyatt struck Jones' shoulder, popped up, and fell behind him.
A few minutes later, Jones made a spectacular save on Matt Niskanen, a sign of the Kings' resilience. The Penguins had two power plays in the third period but the Kings' penalty killers excelled, led by Slava Voynov's 7:19 of ice time while short-handed and Robyn Regehr's 6:43 short-handed time.
Even Brown, who had lost his spot on the penalty-killing unit, got some time as Darryl Sutter spread the work around. “It was a tough energy trip,” Sutter said.
But nothing the Kings couldn't handle. “We wanted to get at least two of three and we got three of three,” Doughty said.
Their next focus is to improve at home. They're 21-13-3 at Staples Center.
“When you look at the difference between us and the top teams in the league, their home records reflect what we don't have at home,” Brown said, “and that's just a matter of us having that grind mentality at home.”