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Kings' power play comes through in nick of time

Friday, 10.07.2011 / 4:39 PM / 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Kings' power play comes through in nick of time
The Kings' power play struggled last season and misfired on its first four chances in its season opener, but it came up big Friday when it was needed.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- After falling short too many times last season -- and too many times in regulation of Friday's game against the New York Rangers -- the Los Angeles Kings finally found success on the power play in overtime and rode it to a season-opening 3-2 victory.

Defenseman Jack Johnson got the goal in the final minute of overtime after Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made saves on Anze Kopitar's shot from the point and Mike Richards at the side of the net, but he couldn't stop Johnson as the Kings won at Globe Arena in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere opener for both teams.

The Kings were 0-for-4 on the man advantage in regulation.

"Obviously, it was great to get that goal on the power play," Johnson said. "I didn't think we were that frustrated on the power play even though we didn't score. We moved it around pretty good."

The goal -- and the way it was scored -- was just what coach Terry Murray wanted to see. He wants shots from the top of the umbrella and then wants his forwards moving into holes and creating matchup problems, and that's just what happened on the winning play.

"That was great composure by Kopitar hanging onto the puck and looking for the low play with Richards," Murray said. "That play comes from Jack Johnson staying (in) on the pinch and not driving in and out."

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Even with Friday's power-play glory, it is hard to forget the team missed on its four chances in regulation. It was a bitter reminder of last season's struggles, when the Kings were 21st in the League at 16.1 percent.

Many around the team, including Murray, believes the man-advantage struggles hurt the team in the standings and, ultimately, played a big part in their first-round playoff loss.

This summer, the club added some pieces they believe will help in that department, mainly Richards and Simon Gagne.

Los Angeles received the game's first three power plays, but could not score on any of them. Success on just one of those opportunities would have put some distance on a Rangers team that clearly was struggling early on, managing just four shots in the first period.

The Kings got a fourth power play with just 2:03 remaining, but once again came up empty -- creating just two viable chances with the game tied at 2-2. Advantage No. 5 -- an offensive-zone penalty by Ryan McDonough -- finally allowed the Kings to net the winner.

"Obviously, every single guy on the power play last year knows it wasn't good enough and it has to be better," Kopitar told NHL.com before the game. "It's going to take practice and it is going to take games. We know that some nights it's going to go good and some nights it is not going to go good. But we have to try to stay consistent with what we are doing and just go from there."

Patience may not be a huge commodity for the Kings. They need to get off to a fast start -- especially with the expectations being heaped upon them after a bold bounty of moves this summer. Man-advantage success will have to be a huge part of that team success. 

"Last year we were not as consistent as we wanted to be, and at critical times in the season, it did not come through for us," Murray said. "We are working toward that kind of consistency and also an attitude where the younger guys are maturing and they recognize those critical moments and that it is time to take it to the next level."

Despite Friday's struggles, there are signs of hope for the Kings. They did generate some chances in the game and forced Lundqvist to be incredibly sharp. They also showed a willingness to get the puck back to the top of the team's umbrella system, which has been a point of emphasis in training camp.

"I want the puck on (Drew Doughty's) stick as much as possible and then you have a rotation with Kopitar and Mike Richards," Murray said earlier this week. "Both are great players that can shoot the puck and score. If we just get that done as a basic fundamental, then I think our power play has an opportunity to be a very effective power play."

The players believe this, as well.

They look at the players on the power play -- Doughty, Kopitar, Richards, Johnson, Gagne and Dustin Brown as the main components -- and know the talent is there.

"I think we have added some ingredients to that power play that will definitely help," defenseman Willie Mitchell told NHL.com. "It'll give it some confidence; some players that will be calm and say, 'Hey, we're fine. We have five Olympians on our power play.' It's going to score goals. It has to, right?"

The answer, the Kings say, is yes. It just may take some time.

"I think it's just getting everybody together," Richards told NHL.com. "Getting the chemistry with the people on the ice, I think that is the biggest thing. Power play and penalty kill wins a lot of games. We know that, and we have to put emphasis on both of them. Power play is not something that you can just X's and O's, you have to have to have people reading off each other and creating chemistry. You look at the best power plays and they have been together for years. We have some work to do, but at same time, we have the skill level and the players to do it."
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