Kings down Oilers 4-1, take Pacific lead
Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 12:22 AM
Call them the first-place Los Angeles Kings
-- at least for a night.
The Kings jumped over Dallas and into the top spot in the Pacific Division as Anze Kopitar
had a goal and an assist in a methodical 4-1 victory in Edmonton on Friday night. The win, combined with Dallas' 5-2 loss at Vancouver, moved Los Angeles one point ahead of Dallas and Phoenix and two in front of San Jose with eight days remaining in the season. The division winner gets the third seed in the West when the playoffs start on April 11.
"You're looking at the standings, but you're just trying to get ready for the day-to-day, getting ready to play games," Kings captain Dustin Brown
said. "We all understand that if we win our games and take care of our business, we have a good opportunity to finish in third."
The Kings, who began the day in eighth place in the West, also got goals by Mike Richards
, Drew Doughty
and Alec Martinez
while limiting Edmonton (31-38-9) to 14 shots against Jonathan Quick
"We were flat, we didn't respond like we needed to," Oilers coach Tom Renney said after his team lost for the second time in three nights. "[We needed to] play hard, get in their grill."
Both teams got off to a fast start, but only the Kings (39-27-12) were able to build on it.
Los Angeles scored on its first shot of the game when Dwight King
's long shot was tipped by Kopitar through the legs of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
just 52 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Edmonton got that goal back at 1:34 on the power play as Jordan Eberle
snapped a shot from the right faceoff dot that went just inside of the post past Quick. It was Eberle's 33rd goal of the season; rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
assisted for his 50th point.
L.A. went ahead to stay midway through the period while killing a penalty. Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry
missed a puck at the point on an Edmonton power play and Richards raced in on a breakaway before lifting a backhander shot past Khabibulin.
With linemate Jeff Carter
sidelined with an injury, Richards was among the Kings who had to step up his game.
"It was a big game for us, after the schedule we've had," Richards said. "We didn't want to come in here and take them lightly. You put the onus on the older guys to play well and take a step forward, and I thought our leaders led tonight, starting with Brownie and [Matt Greene
] and right through, with Kopi and everyone else."
The Kings outshot Edmonton 9-2 in the first period, then took a 3-1 lead at 6:44 of the second when Doughty's power-play point shot hit the stick of a defender and deflected into the net.
The Oilers found themselves with just four defensemen midway through the second after Petry took a puck in the face and joined Ladislav Smid
in the dressing room. Smid suffered a neck injury late in the first.
"He went for a cat scan to see if there's any fracture," Renney said of Petry. "So far it looks good, it's just precautionary."
Quick made big glove stops on Nugent-Hopkins and Andy Sutton
late in the second, and Martinez pumped home a rebound 7:45 into the third for some insurance.
"He made two big saves at the end of the second," coach Darryl Sutter said of Quick. "It was that kind of a game. They're playing for different reasons. A bunch of young guys, and we're trying to stay with it and he made two big saves there."
Edmonton has been out of the playoff race for weeks, but Brown said the Kings did a good job of not taking the Oilers for granted -- a trap they'll have to avoid again Saturday night in Minnesota against another non-playoff team.
"At this point in the year, a team like the Oilers is a very dangerous team. They have nothing to play for and they have a lot of high skill," he said. "It's a playoff game for us, so we had to play hard and kind of get on them early, and we did a good job of playing a physical game and just jumping on them from the get-go."
Material from team media was used in this report