Dustin Brown has spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Kings, and he became the youngest captain in team history in 2008. Although he’s not the most talkative guy wearing their black jersey, he has no desire to leave town in a much-rumored trade.
A dynamic hat trick against the struggling Chicago Blackhawks made Brown’s point quite clearly.
Brown scored three goals in an early 15-minute stretch and matched his career high with four points in an impressive response to rumors of his departure, and Jonathan Quick earned his NHL-leading seventh shutout in the Kings’ 4-0 victory Saturday night.
After scoring two power-play goals in the first period, Brown completed his natural hat trick with a short-handed goal less than five minutes into the second, earning a standing ovation from fans who wondered this week if their hardworking captain was headed out of town.
”I’ve been a King my whole career, and I expect to be a King beyond the next few days,” Brown said. ”With all the rumors flying around, it’s my responsibility to prepare myself to be the best I can. Tonight felt good.”
The Kings acquired Jeff Carter from Columbus on Thursday to bolster the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, and general manager Dean Lombardi was widely rumored to be shopping Brown, who had just one goal in his previous 13 games. Brown showed off the speed and hockey sense that makes him a valuable U.S. Olympian against the Blackhawks, giving life to the Kings’ flagging playoff hopes along the way.
”Things went well for me tonight, and I hope to build on it,” Brown said. ”I think we’ve been struggling as a team. I’ve been struggling personally to score goals, and it definitely felt good to score some goals.”
Jarret Stoll also broke a slump with a career high-tying three assists, and defenseman Willie Mitchell had a goal and an assist in his first game since getting a two-year, $7 million contract extension from the Kings.
Brown’s three goals and Quick’s 19 saves overshadowed Carter’s solid debut with the Kings, who snapped a four-game skid with their third victory in 11 games. Carter played right wing on a line with Mike Richards, his longtime Philadelphia teammate who was traded to Los Angeles last summer at the same time the Flyers shipped Carter to the Blue Jackets.
”It’s always fun to get out there with him,” Carter said. ”It was kind of a grind out there. It’s been a long couple of days for me, but I thought we did some good things together, and we’re going to do a lot more, hopefully.”
While the Kings’ offensive woes abated for a night, they got more spectacular play from Quick, who posted his 21st career shutout. The All-Star goalie matched the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist for the NHL lead in shutouts this season with several outstanding saves.
Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 10 shots before leaving for the Blackhawks, whose power-play slump grew to 0 for 39 after six scoreless chances in their 13th consecutive game without a man-advantage score.
”It’s frustrating, because we’re just not working hard enough on the power play,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. ”We had some good looks tonight, but Quick was good, and their forwards were doing a good job of getting in lanes. We need to work harder, to do a better job.”
After his early power-play goals energized the Kings, Brown slipped away during a Chicago power play, beating Crawford low for his first three-goal game since April 1, 2010 – which was also the Kings’ last hat trick at Staples Center.
Mitchell chased Crawford with his fourth goal of the season on a pass from Brown. Ray Emery finished up with 20 saves.
The Blackhawks played their third straight game without captain Jonathan Toews, who is home in Chicago after an apparent concussion. Toews also crashed his car on the way to the United Center on Thursday, but coach Joel Quenneville thinks he could return next week along with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who sat out again after recently returning from a seven-game absence with an apparent concussion.
”There’s no question he’s a big part of this team,” said Viktor Stalberg, who couldn’t convert the Blackhawks’ two best scoring chances against Quick. ”He’s our captain, and he’s our best player overall. He does the little things so well, and he’s good at faceoffs, and that’s something we were really struggling at today. He’s missed in the locker room also.”
NOTES: Chicago C Brendan Morrison was a healthy scratch, sitting out for the seventh time in nine games. D Steve Montador missed his ninth straight game with an undisclosed upper body injury. … Rookie Slava Voynov stepped into the lineup spot vacated by Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who was traded to Columbus for Carter. … Wayne Gretzky and former Buffalo coach Ted Nolan attended the game.