LOS ANGELES - Jeff Zatkoff played four seasons in the Los Angeles Kings' organization, but spent all of that time in the minor leagues without playing an NHL game in a Kings sweater.
On Thursday night, Zatkoff and the Pittsburgh Penguins made the most of a rare appearance in L.A. Zatkoff extended his unbeaten streak in regulation to 10 games and outshined counterparts Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones in a 4-1 win at Staples Center.
"This one means a little extra something just playing against some of the guys you know," said Zatkoff, who was roommates with Jones with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Zatkoff, a third-round pick by the Kings in the 2006 NHL Draft, made 30 saves, including a glove save on Justin Williams' breakaway attempt and a sprawling stop on Anze Kopitar in the third period, to improve to 9-0-1 in his past 10 decisions.
"I spent a lot of time in this organization, and they're a big part of the reason why I'm here today with this organization," Zatkoff said. "They put me in an opportunity to succeed in [Manchester], and they gave me two of the best goalie coaches in the game with Bill Ranford Kim Dillabaugh that I was able to work with for five, six years. I owe a lot to them … things didn't work out here and I got a fresh start in Pittsburgh."
It was Pittsburgh's first game in L.A. since Nov. 5, 2011, and captain Sidney Crosby's first game here since November 2009. Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, had one assist, but Jussi Jokinen provided the offensive highlight with a beauty of a no-look pass to set up Evgeni Malkin's goal in the first period, and his wrist shot beat Quick cleanly in the second.
It was a matchup between the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL and the League leader in goals allowed. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the start was critical.
"We got the first goal against them and you're a minute deep the game," Bylsma said. "I thought that was big against a team that doesn't give up a lot."
The Kings were supposed to get back on track after a 2-5-1 stretch in eight games away from Staples Center. They have scored three goals in five games - all by Kopitar. Perhaps more disconcerting was that Quick was pulled for Jones after 20 minutes, and Jones allowed a soft goal by Tanner Glass on a backhander from outside the right faceoff dot at 11:44 of the second period to make it 4-1.
Asked if he was OK with being removed, Quick said, "No, you never are."
L.A.'s margin of error is narrow because of its offensive struggles, and Pittsburgh put the Kings in a daunting 3-1 hole in the first period with two power-play goals in 57 seconds.
Chris Kunitz scored his career-high 27th goal with a top-shelf one-timer off Jokinen's pass during a two-man advantage at 10:50, breaking a 1-1 tie. Jokinen then had time to settle the puck and still beat Quick cleanly from the right side at 11:47 during the 5-on-4 advantage to give the Penguins three goals on five shots. Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown took simultaneous hooking and slashing penalties to give Pittsburgh a two-man advantage for 2:00.
"You give any team 5-on-3, they're going to create chances," Quick said. "They get one there, and on a 2-on-1 I got beat over the shoulder. We're at a point where we're not out of the game. It's still a two-goal game, and we just couldn't get it together enough to get a couple."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter tweaked his bottom three lines again, but it didn't shake his team out of its offensive doldrums. L.A. dominated the first half of the second period before Glass quieted the building, and the Kings outshot Pittsburgh 12-3 in the third but got nothing to show for it.
The Kings' score came on a wicked slap shot by Kopitar at 9:32 of the first period that snapped an 0-for-18 power play slump. It was Kopitar's team-leading 16th goal.
"They are a high-powered team," defenseman Matt Greene said. "It's tough to come back when you aren't scoring a lot of goals, and when you give up two on the penalty kill [it hurts]. It's tough chasing in a game against a team like this."
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang did not play because of illness, Bylsma confirmed.
Malkin had two points and tied Ron Francis for fifth on Pittsburgh's all-time scoring list with 613 points.
Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi made his first appearance in L.A. since he signed with the Penguins last July and was recognized in the first television timeout.
Pittsburgh is 8-0-1 against the Pacific Division and 11-3-1 against the Western Conference.