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ROYAL ROAD REPORT: SHUT OUT IN PHILLY

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
PHILADELPHIA – The Kings played a patient and disciplined road game on the second leg of their five-game road trip, holding the Philadelphia Flyers to just 20 shots and significantly out-chancing Philadelphia. But an outstanding 34-save performance by Flyers’ goaltender Martin Biron keyed a 2-0 Philadelphia victory. Philadelphia also blocked 31 shots.

For Biron, it was his 25th NHL shutout, a league milestone, while hie improved his record to a perfect 4-0-0-0 against the Kings, posting a 2.25 GAA. The Kings have been shutout a league-high nine times this season.

The Kings outshot the Flyers in all three periods, and generated significant pressure on four of the team’s five power plays. In the end, the play of Biron was the difference. At the other end of the ice, Kings goaltender Erik Ersberg made tough stops whenever he was called upon. A fortuitous bounce of the puck for Philadelphia decided the outcome.

Ersberg is now 8-9-4 on the season and has not won since Dec. 13, an 0-4-2 span in seven games, posting an .897 SV% (140-of-156) and a 2.72 GAA over those seven appearance.

“We played hard tonight,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray. “We played a hard game dot-to-boards, which is how you have to play against the Flyers. We had our share chances. [Biron] was very good tonight.”

After a scoreless first period, the Flyers’ top-ranked home power play provided the team with the game’s all-important first goal at the 16:11 mark of the middle stanza. Stationed in the circle, Jeff Carter passes to Joffrey Lupul and goes to the net. Ersberg stopped the initial opportunity but Carter jammed home the puck for his 36th goal of the season.

“I tried to jam it first from the goal line, and I didn’t know if [Carter] batted it out of the air or if it just landed on his stick. I didn’t really have time to see where it went,” said Ersberg. “I thought we played a pretty good game. Most nights if we play like this, I think we’ll be successful.”

Wayne Simmonds had a pair of prime scoring chances in the third period, but could not get the puck past Biron. With time running down, the Kings pulled Ersberg for an extra attacker. Philadelphia left winger Simon Gagne scored into an empty net with one second left on the clock.

The Flyers are 21-1-2 when leading after two periods and this was the last game of the regular season for the Flyers against the Pacific Division, finishing the slate unbeaten in regulation against the Pacific, going 4-0-3 on the year. Philadelphia has now won five of its last seven meetings against the Los Angeles Kings.

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Despite being the NHL’s youngest team (with an average age of 25 years, 318 days), the Kings remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase. The hallmark of a Terry Murray-coached team is an emphasis on team defense and disciplined play. The coach reports that he’s pleased with the progress his team has made.

“That’s one of the first big steps, limiting the chances you allow,” said Murray. “It takes a lot of awareness and attention to detail to compete successfully at this level. I would say our team is ahead of schedule.”

Murray has been preaching to the club that it needs to treat each remaining game of the season as though it were a playoff tilt. The message has gotten through to the club.

“Obviously, our goal is to get into the playoffs,” said Jarret Stoll. “We have to play each game with a lot of intensity. There are going to be games like tonight where you run into a hot goaltender but you have to keep plugging away.”

The coach was particularly pleased with how his team generated chances on the power play. Philadelphia entered the game with an NHL-best 16 shorthanded goals scored. The threat of counterattack chances has made several Flyers’ opponents tentative in their power-play passing game. But LA handled it very well.

“You don’t want to instill hesitancy when you do the pre-scout before the game,” said Murray. “It’s all about awareness. I liked the way we moved the puck on the power play tonight. The opportunities were there.”

PHILADELPHIA CONNECTION

The Kings’ organization features a host of players with ties to the Philadelphia Flyers organization.

On this night, Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall, a member of the Flyers hall of fame, received a hearty ovation from the Wachovia Center crowd.

Meanwhile, Murray is a former Flyers’ player, head and assistant coach and has also served in a scouting capacity in the organization. General manager Dean Lombardi served as an assistant to former Philadelphia GM Bob Clarke. Kings players Michal Handzus, Denis Gauthier and Kyle Calder all spent time in the orange and black as well.

“Philadelphia is a great hockey town, and it’s a fun place to play,” Gauthier said. “The fans are passionate and tough. But when you are playing the game the right way, they’re very supportive. I enjoyed my time in Philly.”

Philadelphia has never been a hospitable place for the Kings, however. With tonight’s loss, the Kings’ all-time record in road tilts in Philadelphia fell to 15-42 with eight ties. The Flyers have outscored the Kings by a 477-356 margin at the Wachovia Center and the old Philadelphia Spectrum.

CATCHING THE RED EYE
Both the Kings and the Flyers faced the situation of playing on back-to-back nights. Philadelphia played the previous night in Washington, riding a three-goal third period to a 4-2 comeback win over the Capitals. Meanwhile, the Kings prevailed over the Minnesota Wild in a shootout, 2-1.

The Kings flight arrived in Philadelphia at 3 a.m. local time. As a result, the club had to cancel its planned morning skate.

“By the time I turned out the light it was 20 minutes to 4,” Murray said. “That’s why I said it was a demanding game for us to come back and play hard, but I think we worked hard tonight.”

CAPTAIN HIS FAMILY

Kings captain Dustin Brown did not travel with the club to Philadelphia. He is still with his family, following the birth of his second child. He is set to rejoin the team in Detroit.

“Obviously that’s a big loss when Dustin isn’t in the lineup,” said Ersberg. “He’s a very important player for our team. But we can’t use that as an excuse. Everyone else has to pick up their game.”

QUOTES
ERIK ERSBERG

On the Flyers goal
“I tried to jam it (the puck), first from the goal line, and then I don’t know if he (Jeff Carter) batted it out of the air or if it just landed on his stick. I didn’t really have time to see where it went.”

On losing a close game
“It’s always frustrating to lose, especially 1-0 or 2-0 with an empty net, but I think we played a pretty good game. I think we deserved at least one point today and we just need to save it for the next game, and we’ll be fine I think.”

ANZE KOPITAR
On the difference tonight
“It’s always tough to be on the down side, but one power-play goal makes the difference in the game, and our power play was 0-5. That is what made the difference in the game. They scored and we didn’t. That’s just the way it is.”

On Martin Biron
“He (Martin Biron) was good. It’s always good when a goalie stops 34 shots. We didn’t get enough traffic in front of him, but sometimes you just run into a hot goalie, and that was certainly the case tonight.”

TERRY MURRAY
On tonight's game
“Well, we played hard. It was a demanding game for us coming back after last night’s game, and getting in to town (Philly) so late. The players got going physically and I thought we played a hard game, and that’s the kind of game you’ve got to play against the Flyers. You’ve got to be heavy and strong on your stick. We had our looks. We had our opportunities. Marty (Biron) was really good here tonight, and that was the difference.”

On playing back-to-backs
“I think I turned my light out about twenty to four (3:40 a.m.), but that’s the way it is. Everybody goes through that, but it was a demanding game and I was proud of our guys, because we’re such a young team. To find a way to do all that stuff is a learning process, and they responded, I thought, very well tonight.”

On Marty Biron
“Marty (Biron) was really good. We had some power plays. We had our opportunities there, and those are critical moments in the game. You’ve got to take advantage of them, and I thought we had some quality chances, and Marty was really good. He challenged, he was

JEFF CARTER
On his goal
“It was just a strong play by Lupes (Joffrey Lupul) driving to the net. I was just kind of hanging out back looking for rebounds.”

SIMON GAGNE
On the Kings
“They played very hard tonight, just based on their situation last night. They got here, I think, very late. Back-to-back games like us. You have to give them credit. They battled hard all night. Marty (Martin Biron) was very good for us.”

FLYERS COACH JOHN STEVENS
On Tonight's game
“Yeah, we had some cinder blocks on our feet a few times. I think we came off the game in Washington, (that game) had such intensity, it had a playoff atmosphere. It was a bit of a track meet, there were a lot of scoring chances on both sides. I tried to forewarn them, L.A. is as good a defensive team as there is in the League. They defend extremely well, they really try to cover over and force you into turnovers. The defense moved the puck well they got lefties and righties set up on the backhand. I didn’t think we did a good job moving our feet, we turned a lot of pucks over. That’s fatigue, look at some of the penalties: tripping, tripping, hooking, hooking. To me that is a sign of not moving your feet and not doing the work. I think fatigue has a little bit to do with that. When Kimmo (Kimmo Timmonen) goes out and Richie (Mike Richards) plays the backend and he has to play big minutes, you have to juggle things around a little bit and I think fatigue sets in. But it is certainly a good sign to see your team not play their best, against a good L.A. team, and still find a way to win.”

Compiled by Bill Meltzer | Special to LAKings.com

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