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Kings, Kopitar start road trip off right in New Jersey

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

A strong start to their five-game road trip was what the Kings needed, and it’s what they got in their 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils Monday evening at the Prudential Center.

A big two points were earned by the Kings, who are fighting to keep pace in what has become, and continues to be, an extremely tight race for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

With the pressure to pocket as many points as the regular season winds down, the Kings came out buzzing Monday night, completely dictating the pace and control of play throughout the opening period, outshooting the Devils 16-3.

“I thought we were good in our own zone, we were making good decisions, quick decisions, getting on their coverage,” Alec Martinez said of the Kings’ strong first period. “We eliminated their shot opportunities, we got in on the forecheck, doing what we do best. I thought a good start was really important, especially for the beginning of this road trip.”

Of the Kings’ 16 first period shots, two found their way past New Jersey’s Corey Schneider.

Andrej Sekera registered his first goal in a Kings uniform just over 10 minutes into the game. Anze Kopitar, looking for space in the Devils’ zone, handled the puck just inside the blue line, covering Sekera’s position as he dropped him a pass. Upon receiving Kopitar’s pass, Sekera walked in and rifled a shot through traffic and past Corey Schneider’s glove side.

A pair of Devils penalties gave the Kings a 5-on-3 power play during the final minute of the first. With time and space aplenty, Marian Gaborik found Tyler Toffoli with a nifty back-door pass, which Toffoli wristed high and past Corey Schneider.

The Kings weren’t nearly as dominant in the second period; Scott Gomez got the Devils on the board two minutes into the middle frame to get New Jersey to within a goal. The Devils didn’t get many opportunities, however, the Kings’ defense keeping New Jersey’s attack to the perimeter throughout much of the evening.

In the third, Anze Kopitar provided the insurance the Kings needed, burying his 15th goal of the season to give the Kings a 3-1 lead. Jake Muzzin fired a shot from the point that Corey Schneider couldn’t handle; Kopitar pounced on the loos rebound and tucked it past Schneider.

The Kings would maintain that lead; Jonathan Quick stopped all 12 shots he faced during the final 20 minutes.

The Kings played an extremely disciplined game, only taking two penalties, granting the Devils only a single power play.

Alec Martinez, in his first game back after missing 19 games due to concussion-like symptoms, logged 16:23 minutes of ice time, firing off three shots and laying five hits.

Mike Richards, in his first game back after being recalled from the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday, played 15 shifts, amassing 11:41 minutes of ice time, recording one shot.

“It was good, it was nice to get back out there,” Richards said following the game. “I think after the first shift, you start feeling it out a little bit more, and as the game goes on, you start feeling more comfortable making different plays; it was just nice to get the win.”

The Kings now have 84 points in the standings, but are still outside of the Western Conference’s playoff picture. They’ll get another chance to gain some ground Tuesday night against the New York Rangers.

Anze Kopitar (1G, 2A) led all Kings players in points scored (3), Marian Gaborik in shots taken (5), Drew Doughty in hits delivered (4), Alec Martinez in shots blocked (5), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (29:09). Jonathan Quick made 19 saves in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 35-23-14; their mark on the road away from STAPLES Center jumps to 13-14-7. The Kings will continue their five-game road trip Tuesday night in New York City; they’re slated to take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden – the puck slated to drop just after 4:00PM PT.

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