LOS ANGELES -- The built-in storyline coming into Saturday night’s game against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks was the debut of Kings forward Jeff Carter.
Turns out another right wing, the one who wasn’t traded away this week, stole the show.
Dustin Brown scored his third career hat trick and matched his career-high with four points, leading the Kings over the Blackhawks, 4-0, in front of a joyous sold-out crowd that witnessed its first victory at Staples Center since Feb. 1.
“Things went well for me tonight and I hope to build on it,” Brown said. “We’ve been struggling as a team, and I’ve been struggling personally to score goals, and it definitely felt good to score some goals tonight.”
In his fourth season as team captain, Brown became the object of wide-spread trade rumors Thursday night, the same evening the Kings traded defenseman Jack Johnson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Carter.
He was stuck in the unenviable position of attending practice the following morning and then taking questions from a larger-than-normal gathering of media. Brown sat back and answered every one, most probing his knowledge and reaction to the trade rumors.
“I’ve been a King my whole career and I expect to be a King beyond the next few days,” he said. “For me, personally, I probably said this [Friday], with all the rumors flying around, it’s my responsibility to prepare myself to be the best I can. Tonight I felt good.”
Brown, who now has six game-winners among his 17 goals, scored on two power plays in the opening period, only the second time this season the Kings have taken a multi-goal lead into the second.
He then notched a short-handed goal early in the middle frame for a natural hat trick, becoming the first player on the Kings to score three goals in a game since Anze Kopitar last March. Brown was the last player on the Kings to secure a hat trick at Staples Center, doing so April 1, 2010.
Brown nearly became the first player on the Kings to score four goals in a game since Luc Robitaille in 1993, but a 2-on-1 was stuffed by Ray Emery, who had replaced starter Corey Crawford after the fourth goal.
Carter, who scored a hat trick in his final game with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, was among those impressed.
“The guys were hot tonight, Brownie was hot actually,” Carter said. “It’s great to see. Obviously, you look around at the players in this room, everybody has got some offensive talent here and, for whatever reason, they haven’t gone in. … It’s a start of good things to come.”
Almost lost in hoopla surrounding Brown and Carter was the seventh shutout of the season for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who had given up seven goals in his previous three periods. His second consecutive shutout against the Blackhawks established a new season high for Quick and moved him into a tie for the league lead with Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers.
A day after signing a two-year $7-million contract extension, Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell had a goal and an assist for his multi-point game of the season.
In his third game back since missing the previous four because of a hip injury, Jarret Stoll matched his career high with three assists, two coming on Brown’s power-play goals.
Even struggling left wing Dustin Penner showed some jump in his step, taking a team-high five shots on goal after sitting out five of the previous six games as a healthy scratch.
“It was a really complete game given the last, probably, 10 games we’ve been struggling,” Brown said. “It’s important for us to realize what we did tonight and what it took to play that way.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter rewarded the team with a day off Sunday before they fly to Nashville for a game Monday against the Predators, then head to Minneapolis for a game Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.