The Los Angeles Kings’ strong start has likely surprised some around the NHL, but not coach Terry Murray.
The surging Kings look to match a season high with a fourth consecutive victory while trying for their third in a row against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Defenseman Jack Johnson(notes) had a goal with an assist and Justin Williams(notes) scored the winner in the eighth round of the shootout to give Los Angeles (20-10-3) a 3-2 home win over Phoenix on Thursday.
The first Western Conference team to 20 wins this season, the Kings are in the midst of a 7-1-1 stretch. They have the second-highest point total in the conference, two behind Pacific Division rival San Jose.
Los Angeles went 34-37-11 last season and didn’t win its 21st game until Feb. 3. The Kings haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001-02.
“We’re coming together a little bit faster than maybe what I anticipated,” Terry Murray told the Kings’ official Web site. “We want to keep the standard high. The bar has been raised, and we want to make sure that we’re giving ourselves that chance every night.”
The Kings, who are 14-0 when leading after two periods dating to last season and 10-1-3 in one-goal games, will try to do that while trying for a third straight victory over a Pacific opponent.
“We have to win the Western Conference games - in particular our division,” said Johnson, who has four points in his last two games. “We have to try and keep the gap rolling between us and everyone else in our division.”
Los Angeles is 6-1-1 against Dallas (14-8-9) since the start of last season. The Kings also have won six of eight at home versus the Stars, who avoided a third straight loss with a 3-2 shootout win at San Jose on Friday.
Williams, who already has eight goals after totaling 13 over the previous two seasons, had one with an assist in a 4-1 win at Dallas on Oct. 19.
Los Angeles’ Jon Quick made 29 saves Thursday to improve to 18-9-3 with a 2.63 goals-against average. He’s 4-2-0 with a 2.40 GAA versus the Stars.
Brad Richards(notes) and Mike Ribeiro(notes) each scored and Matt Niskanen(notes) scored in the 11th round of the shootout Friday for the Stars, who were coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at Anaheim on Tuesday to open a five-game road swing.
“That shootout was pretty special, it was the longest one I’ve ever been involved in,” said Dallas coach Marc Crawford, whose team is 2-6 in shootouts. “It’s not very often that the shootout ends up being the story of the game.”
Richards has three goals in his last two games overall and one with six assists in his last five versus Los Angeles.