Kings center Anze Kopitar celebrates his goal against the Sharks in the second period.
Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports
When Joe Pavelski scored on the Sharks' first shot, he evoked memories of San Jose's banner-ceremony-spoiling win at Staples Center on opening night.
The Los Angeles Kings spent the rest of the evening demonstrating why they've got all the banners that count in this rivalry.
Anze Kopitar and Jake Muzzin scored power-play goals, Jonathan Quick made 21 saves and the Kings returned from the holiday break with a 3-1 victory over their upstate rivals on Saturday night.
Tyler Toffoli also scored in the defending Stanley Cup champions' third victory in four games. The Kings forechecked impressively, passed sharply and played their vaunted puck-possession game to dominant effect, largely neutralizing the Sharks over the final 57 minutes after Pavelski's opening shot trickled through Quick.
"Everybody says the best defense is offense, anyway," said Kopitar, who had a goal and an assist on the power play. "You keep the puck to yourself, and that's the best thing to do."
Kopitar led the Kings' once-struggling power play, which kept on humming after the break. Los Angeles has scored a power-play goal in five straight games, including multiple goals in four straight contests for the first time since March 1993.
"I think pucks are just going in for us," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We have so much firepower on our power-play units, and it's finally coming together."
Pavelski scored his 17th goal and Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots for the Sharks, who lost in regulation for just the second time since Nov. 26. San Jose uncharacteristically failed to stay out of the box, forced to kill more than three penalties for the first time in December.
"They were the better team the whole night," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We were beat in special teams, and that was evident, but there's much more to it than that. The grinding part of the game, we were beaten at as well. They were better on the walls. They were better at taking time and space away, and their forecheck was better. So there's no doubt the better team won tonight."
Los Angeles also pulled even with San Jose in second place in the Pacific Division standings -- a fact that means something to the Kings, who have won two Stanley Cups and 10 playoff series in the last three years despite winning no division titles.
"They're a division rival, so when you get points against them, it's more than just two points," Doughty said. "It's huge. We need to be moving up in the playoff standings and moving up in the division, and in order to do that, we need to beat division teams."
Pavelski put the Sharks ahead just 2:39 in, capitalizing on a turnover by Justin Williams and a pass from Joe Thornton that turned out to be their lone offensive highlight.
"When the games are intense like this, you want to be at your best, and we weren't tonight," Pavelski said. "We weren't very disciplined in a lot of areas. We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes and took a lot of penalties, things we haven't been doing lately when we were winning."
Toffoli evened it later in the period, snapping his personal 10-game goal drought on a remarkable cross-ice pass from defenseman Jamie McBain, who has points in three straight games. Toffoli, Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson have 11 goals apiece to lead the Kings.
Kopitar then scored on a back-side rebound of Gaborik's shot in the second period. Four of his eight goals in a slow-starting offensive season have been on the power play.
Muzzin added his sixth goal with a heavy shot on another power play early in the third.
NOTES: Kopitar's right ear was cut in the second period after apparently getting clipped an errant stick in front of the net. He went to the dressing room but returned moments later, putting off stitches until after the game. ... The Kings have won nine of their last 11 regular-season home games against the Sharks. ... Los Angeles matched Tampa Bay and Toronto for the NHL lead with 14 home victories.