The Darryl Sutter era got off to a successful start for the Los Angeles Kings. In his second game, Sutter will return to the arena where he experienced his greatest coaching success.
Sutter tries to coach the Kings to their third straight win overall and their second with him behind the bench Friday night when they visit the San Jose Sharks, one of three teams tied atop the Pacific Division.
Sutter hadn't been an NHL head coach since his final season in Calgary in 2005-06, but got another chance after Los Angeles fired Terry Murray on Dec. 12. Following a four-game stint by interim coach John Stevens, Sutter took his place behind the bench Thursday at Staples Center.
"There's nothing like game day. I've always said that," Sutter said Thursday night. "Even when I was sitting upstairs (as a general manager), game day is still the best part of the whole game. I was pretty focused all day, but I was thinking more about how to use the players. These young guys are a big reason why I came here."
His debut with the Kings (16-14-4) proved a success, as Los Angeles defeated Anaheim 3-2 in a shootout. Dustin Brown had the deciding goal in the tiebreaker and also scored in the third period. Mike Richards also scored in his return to the lineup after missing eight games with a concussion for the Kings, while Drew Doughty had two assists and Jonathan Quick made 20 saves through overtime.
"Mike Richards is a tenacious player and it was good to get him back in the lineup," Sutter said. "He makes a big difference."
Though he also had multi-year coaching stints with Chicago and the Flames, Sutter lasted the longest and won the most in San Jose, where he won 192 games from 1997-02 and took the Sharks to five consecutive postseasons - reaching the second round twice. He ranks second behind Ron Wilson (206) on the franchise's all-time victory list.
Posting another win Friday in San Jose could be a tall order for Sutter's Kings. Los Angeles also beat Toronto 3-2 in a shootout on Monday, but has gone a club-record 13 consecutive games without scoring more than two goals through regulation and overtime.
The Kings are 5-7-1 during that offensive drought, although one of the wins was a 2-0 home victory over the Sharks (18-10-3) on Nov. 28. Quick stopped 33 shots in that contest for his fourth shutout of the season, while Richards and Ethan Moreau scored the game's only goals.
Los Angeles will need more offense to prevail Friday if San Jose continues its current surge. The Sharks have scored 15 goals while winning the first three on their six-game homestand.
The most impressive performance of that streak came Wednesday against Tampa Bay, as Logan Couture scored two of San Jose's club-record five goals in the first 14:47. Benn Ferriero, Joe Pavelski, Andrew Desjardins, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks, who rolled to a 7-2 win and their highest scoring output of the season.
"The puck was following me around all night," Couture said. "They didn't have much energy in the first period and we jumped on them. We scored, and then scored and scored and scored.''
Couture and Marleau both also had goals in San Jose's 4-2 home victory over the Kings on Nov. 7. The Sharks have won three of the last four meetings between these teams at HP Pavilion.