LOS ANGELES -- Matinee games haven't been kind to the Los Angeles Kings recently. The early starts have led to lethargic performances and a winless record over their last seven afternoon games prior to Saturday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.
But thanks to a piercing early wake-up call in the form of Dustin Brown's punishing slap shot, the Kings were alert from start to end in a 4-1 victory over the Avalanche at Staples Center.
Brown got things rolling 58 seconds into the first period, blasting a shot past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov to give the Kings a 1-0 lead and a much-needed energy boost.
Jeff Carter followed with another goal 13 minutes later and the Kings had two goals in their first four shots, a 2-0 lead and complete control of their season-high third-straight victory.
"We got off to a really good start today and that helps," said Kings center Anze Kopitar who added a second-period goal. "In the past in afternoon games, we haven't been as sharp right at the get go. But today we came out of the gate strong."
Considering the Kings are 6-1-1 this year when scoring the first goal, that was critical.
"And it never hurts when you score one minute into the game," Kopitar said.
The Kings weathered a major storm in the second period when Colorado drew to within 2-1 on Milan Hejduk's wrist shot past Jonathan Quick on a two-man advantage.
With the Avalanche still holding a one-man edge, the Kings' Jarret Stoll dove in front of a shot by Tyson Barrie, the puck bouncing off Stoll and gobbled up by teammate Trevor Lewis, who skated the length of the ice and fired a wrist shot past Varlamov to put the Kings up 3-1.
"That kind of deflated us a little bit," said Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog, who was playing for the first time in 11 games after suffering a concussion on Jan. 26. "It took some energy away from us."
It was the Kings first short-handed goal on the season and the first of Lewis' career.
But the key was Stoll, who fearlessly threw his body in front of Barrie's shot.
"Some of those times you're just in desperation mode and you want to get the lane, basically," Stoll said. "I was out of the lane and I had to slide and pretend I was Quickie there for a second. I got lucky, but then again I was probably out of position to have to dive to block the shot in the first place. But it worked out."
The Kings added another goal just before the end of the second period when Dustin Penner and Dwight King assisted on Kopitar's fifth goal of the season to make it 4-1.
"We definitively weren't good enough," Landeskog said. "Both on the bench and on the ice we had low energy at times."
Kopitar has 12 points over the last 13 games, including six points in the last seven. Meanwhile, Stoll is now one assist away from 200 for his career.
Carter has three goals and four points over the last three games and nine and 11 in the last 14. His game-winner was his fourth on the season
Quick, who was a game-time decision in goal as Kings coach Darryl Sutter mulled using Jonathan Bernier again, recorded his second straight one-goal game while turning away 23 shots.
"I think the competition between our goaltenders the last seven games has been significant to our success," Sutter said. "I think both guys are playing really well and we want them to play really well to give us a chance to be a playoff team."
NOTES: The schedule maker did the Kings no favors to kick off defense of their Stanley Cup championship, sending them to the road for 11 of their first 15 games. The result was a sluggish 7-6-2 start, although they've won four out of their last five while outscoring opponents 14-7. Now the Kings play 13 of their next 16 games at Staples Center. ... Landeskog, last season's NHL Rookie of the Year, returned to the Colorado lineup after sitting out 11 games because of complications from a concussion he suffered against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 26. ... Colorado forward Milan Hejduk, who left Wednesday's overtime win over St. Louis with a torso injury, was back in the lineup. ... Colorado has owned the Kings of late, beating the Kings five straight times heading into Saturday. Ironically the Kings were 8-0-1 against the Avalanche in the nine games prior to that.