LOS ANGELES — Sooner or later, somebody had to stand up for their teammate.
Kings captain Dustin Brown was crumpled against the boards in the first period after a hard check from behind by Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund, earning him a five-minute major for boarding.
Then it was first-line center Anze Kopitar who was taken out from behind by Mathieu Roy as he tried to finish off a 3-on-2 rush late in the second period, slamming skates first into the end boards. Kopitar writhed in pain as Roy was escorted to the penalty box to begin serving a two-minute penalty for interference.
The Kings didn’t answer any of those shots with raised fists, but after Justin Williams scored the game’s only goal 5 minutes 20 seconds into the third period, Tampa Bay enforcer Steve Downie took a leap at Kings star defenseman Drew Doughty as he skated along the boards in his defensive zone.
Doughty, in his first game back after missing the previous six because of a concussion, avoided the brunt of the contact, but that didn’t sit well with defense partner Willie Mitchell, one of the newest members of the Kings.
Mitchell charged into Downie from behind and both squared off, dropping their gloves after a couple of seconds and engaging in some one-on-one fisticuffs. Once the fight was halted, an enraged Downie was sent packing with a game misconduct.
“That’s the kind of play that you want your partner to stand up for you,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “Doughty would do the same thing.”
Murray's reaction was unanimous among the players who stuck around to speak with reporters after the game.
Brown said the hit that leveled him on his 26th birthday has been a “bad, dangerous play from the very start.”
Kopitar said he thought Mitchell “responded very well,” and Williams said “that shows a message to the league, that we’re not going to be pushed around.”
The Kings are already off to one of their best starts in club history, but Thursday’s victory against the Lighting might be a bonding experience that carries them through the months ahead.
In the above postgame video clip, see what Brown, Kopitar, Williams and Murray had to say about the physical nature of the game and how the Kings responded.