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Kings pick up seventh-straight win in Santa Clara

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings extended their winning streak to seven games Saturday night in their 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium.

For the Kings, it was their second Stadium Series game in as many seasons; Saturday night’s affair in Santa Clara was a clear-cut improvement over the shutout loss they suffered last year at Dodger Stadium.

Having experienced outdoor hockey in exposed California weather conditions could very well have played into the Kings’ favor; they came out with a simple, relaxed approach, controlling much of the play throughout the majority of the opening period.

“We learned our lesson from last year,” Kyle Clifford said of playing in such a unique setting. “We let the distractions get the better of us, and we came in with a better mentality this year and got off to a good start and just built off of it from there.”

Not even three minutes into the contest, Kyle Clifford drove to San Jose’s net and gave the Kings a 1-0 lead. After a hard Kings forecheck led by Clifford, the puck found its way to Jake Muzzin atop of the right point. Muzzin fired a quick wrist-shot toward the net where Kyle Clifford was driving to create traffic, and Clifford redirected Muzzin’s shot past Antti Niemi.

While the Kings outplayed the Sharks for most of the first period, San Jose was able to bury the equalizer with just over a minute to play in the opening frame. Brent Burns beat Jonathan Quick with a wrist-shot through traffic from a quirky angle low along the right half boards to tie the game with 1:04 to play in the first.

San Jose controlled much of the second period, outshooting the Kings 15-6, but Los Angeles came away unscathed.

Early in the third, Marian Gaborik caught the Sharks by surprise with a well-executed shift change. As soon as Gaborik hit the ice, he stole the puck from an unsuspecting Brent Burns, walked in alone, and fired a slap shot past Antti Niemi to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.

The Kings were able to hold onto their lead in the third, which included their recent streak of success on the penalty kill. The Kings killed off San Jose’s third and final power play of the evening with under 10 minutes to play in regulation; they’ve now killed off nine consecutive power plays.

Jonathan Quick, named the game’s first star, made 31 saves, recording his 200th-career NHL victory; Quick is the only goalie to record 200 wins in a Kings uniform. Drew Doughty played in his 500th-career NHL game Saturday night, registering five shots, one hit, two blocked shots in 32:01 minutes of ice time.

Kyle Clifford and Marian Gaborik led all Kings players in goals scored (1), Jake Muzzin and Jeff Carter in assists (1), Marian Gaborik in shots taken (7), Trevor Lewis in hits delivered (6), Anze Kopitar and Robyn Regehr in shots blocked (5), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (32:01). Jonathan Quick made 31 saves in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 28-18-12; their mark away from STAPLES Center jumps to 9-12-6. The Kings have now won seven consecutive games, and have momentarily taken over third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings will now return to Los Angeles for a quick two-game home stand; they’ll host the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, the puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM PT.

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