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PK: "Work Through It"

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Smyth made a key block on the PK but also tallied two goals and an assist while Anze Kopitar also tallied a goal and two assists.

Kings coach Terry Murray called it a critical point in the game.

With the Kings holding onto a 4-2 lead over the Minnesota Wild, the team started the third period with 1:34 remaining on a second period interference penalty on forward Wayne Simmonds. The Kings were 0-for-2 on the penalty kill on the night, bringing their penalty kill on to an unsightly 22.2% (2-for-9) on the season.

With the Wild looking to pull within one and send the 14,955 in attendance at STAPLES Center into a nervous frenzy, the Kings picked a good time to revert back to last year's penalty kill form.

Highlighted by a sliding block by Kings forward Ryan Smyth on a shot from the point, the Kings killed the penalty on the way to a 6-3 win on Thursday night.

"That to me could make the difference to turn it around, that kind of play," Murray said. "We killed off another penalty after that so hopefully we can build on it."

As Murray related to, the Kings killed off another penalty in the third period, bringing their penalty kill on the season to 4-for-11 (36.4%).

In Tuesday night's 6-4 win over the San Jose Sharks, the Kings allowed four San Jose power-play goals. And with the Wild scoring on their first two power plays of the night, the same team that ranked seventh in the NHL last season on the penalty kill (82.9%) has shown little resemblance of that same form in the first three games of the season.

"You're going to have to work through it," Murray said. "You're going through hell you've got to keep going and come out the other side."

Forward Justin Williams, who will drop to the blueline on penalty kill situations, chose to look at the positives after the game.

"We're 2-0 right now," Williams said. "We've killed off our last two so I think we need to start with positives and just go over it again."

Murray believes that the team is close to regaining last year's form on the penalty kill; it's only a matter of inches.

"Even on the first one of the game, we had a great attitude there," Murray said. "Very aggressive, really pressuring the puck, and that's the style that we had last year and we want to stay with it again. We've got to work to get it back and it's only a matter of a stick here, a stick there to get in the passing lanes to get a tick and it's going to end up breaking up that play. Just keep going at it. It'll come around."

While the Kings have struggled on the penalty kill in the first three games of the season, as Thursday night's game showed the team has improved tremendously on their 5-on-5 play.

Last year the Kings ranked last in the NHL with just 114 5-on-5 goals. As a comparison, the Detroit Red Wings ranked first in the NHL with 176.

Yet on Thursday, the Kings scored five of their six goals on 5-on-5 play, bringing their season total to seven goals in three games.

A big reason for that has been the tremendous play of the Kings top line of Williams, Smyth and center Anze Kopitar. On Thursday, that line totaled four goals and five assists for nine points. On the season, that line has amassed seven goals, 11 assists, and 18 points.

"That line was as good as I've seen them since they've been together throughout the training camp and here in the early part of the season," Murray said. "Hopefully they can keep building on that."

Williams said there are some nights when everything simply clicks, and tonight was one of them.

"Wherever the puck went, we went, and we're always near each other," Williams said. "We were able to make some plays. We know that's not going to be like that every night but if we keep getting our chances, game in and game out, then we should be successful together."

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