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Kings hold off Colorado, maintain pace in standings

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– The Kings picked up their second straight win Saturday night, keeping pace in the standings with a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at STAPLES Center.

Colorado was eliminated from playoff contention a couple of hours prior to Saturday night’s contest due to a Winnipeg Jets win earlier in the day; the pressure was on the Kings to match the Jets’ two points earned in order to not fall back in the standings.

The Kings held the Avalanche to just 10 shots during the night, keeping Colorado’s offense to the perimeter throughout the evening. The Kings provided solid protection around Jonathan Quick, blocking an additional 15 shots.

“We did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone; we took away some time and space, had a few breakdowns here and there and Quickie came up huge for us,” Alec Martinez said following the win. “We definitely can play better hockey, but I’m obviously happy with the outcome.”

Dwight King got the Kings on the board with just over six minutes to play in the first period when he slammed home a rebound off of a Jeff Carter shot that Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov couldn’t handle.

Carter intercepted an Avalanche pass in the neutral zone, broke through two defensemen, then fired a shot low to Varlamov’s right leg pad – which ricochet straight out to the stick of Dwight King – who was crashing the net in anticipation.

Ryan O’Reilly tied the game for the Avalanche just over a minute into the second period, when he tapped home a Gabriel Landeskog shot that seeped through Jonathan Quick’s pads and into the crease.

Alec Martinez responded to regain the Kings’ lead when he snapped home his sixth goal of the season midway through the second period. Martinez hopped on a loose rebound after Jeff Carter fired a wrist-shot into traffic in front of Colorado’s net, and beat Varlamov high to the top-right corner.

Martinez’s goal wasn’t initially signaled on the ice, but he was able to recover the puck and put it past Varlamov once again to eliminate any need of goal review from Toronto.

Marian Gaborik iced the game with just under two minutes left to play in regulation, scoring his 26th goal of the season. Gaborik, after receiving a pass from Anze Kopitar in the neutral zone, flew through and past Colorado defensemen before firing a snap shot past Varlamov to the top-right corner.

With the win, the Kings have 92 points in the standings, and return to take over the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Kings are now just one point behind the Calgary Flames, who own the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff berth.

The Kings’ 10 shots allowed ties a franchise-low mark, set on January 11, 1994 against the San Jose Sharks.

“We were just playing our style of the game really, that’s what we have to do to be successful and there’s no secret to that,” Anze Kopitar stressed following the game. “We’ve proven that, and now we have to go on the road and play the same way. We’ll start thinking about [the road games] tomorrow and start to get ready. We have to get ready and fired up for this road trip.”

That Kings road trip will be their final one of the season, and will undoubtedly make or break their playoff hopes. The Kings will face the Canucks on Monday, the Oilers Tuesday, and the Flames on Thursday before returning home next Saturday for the regular season finale.

The Kings finished their season series against the Avalanche with a perfect 3-0-0 mark, outscoring Colorado 12-4. The Kings have now won five straight games against the Avalanche, and have a eight-game point streak against Colorado, dating back to January 22, 2013.

Robyn Regehr (2A) and Jeff Carter (2A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), Jeff Carter in shots taken (5), Robyn Regehr in hits delivered (6), Jake Muzzin and Nick Shore in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (26:33). Jonathan Quick made nine saves in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 39-25-14; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center jumps to 24-9-7. The Kings will now venture off on their final road trip of the regular season. They’re scheduled to take on the Vancouver Canucks Monday night at Rogers Arena; the puck is slated to drop just after 7:00PM PT.

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