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Special teams power Kings past San Jose 3-1

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– The Kings’ power play continued to roll Saturday night as they trumped the San Jose Sharks by way of a 3-1 score at STAPLES Center.

San Jose made their second trip to Los Angeles this season coming in hot riding an eight-game point streak (7-0-1), and with an 8-1-1 record during the month of December. The Kings, who had their Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony muffled with a 4-0 loss to the Sharks on opening night, jabbed back with a convincing win Saturday as they capped off their four-game home stand.

The storyline was the Kings’ power play, which rose to the occasion for the fifth-straight game, executing on two of their four man-advantage situations on Saturday. For the Kings, it was also the fourth-straight game in which they registered two power play goals.

“We need special teams in order to play like we did tonight, we need puck possession and puck management,” said Anze Kopitar, who registered two points on the power play. “If we manage the puck up the ice, it usually results in better possession in our offensive zone and we can create chances off of that. We did a pretty good job of that tonight.”

Before the Kings’ power play got around to being the game’s major factor, an early deficit had to be overcome.

San Jose buried the first goal of the evening, and they were quick to do so. After Joe Thornton snubbed Justin Williams’ breakout attempt, he one-touched the puck over to Joe Pavelski, who walked in from atop the left circle and fired a puck that squeaked through Jonathan Quick’s pads.

Pavelski’s goal, which came on the Sharks’ first shot of the evening, gave San Jose a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.

Tyler Toffoli, who was 10 consecutive games without a goal coming into the night, struck to tie the score with just under six minutes left to play in the first. Toffoli received a picture-perfect pass from Jamie McBain, then fired a wrist-shot past Antti Niemi with time and space aplenty from San Jose’s back door.

McBain, who was playing in his third straight game Saturday after being a healthy scratch for nine consecutive games, has a point (1G, 2A) in each of his three games back into the lineup. With Robyn Regehr out of the lineup indefinitely, McBain seems to slowly be earning the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter.

Toffoli’s goal, his 11th of the season, is once again tied for the team-lead in that category alongside Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik.

During their second power play of the evening, Anze Kopitar chipped home the Kings’ second goal of the night with 9:47 left to play in the second period. Kopitar, who was crashing San Jose’s net as Marian Gaborik drove in with a backhand attempt, snapped home the rebound to the top shelf after Gaborik’s initial attempt was denied.

For Kopitar, it was his eighth goal of the season, and he now has 12 points (2G, 10A) in the last five games.

“It’s coming along right now,” Kopitar said of his offensive resurgence. “It seems like we are making some good plays, and we are getting some opportunities. It seems like we are building up the chemistry and getting to know each other’s small details on the ice, that’s why we are creating chances.”

Early in the third period, and on their third power play of the night, Jake Muzzin gave the Kings a 3-1 lead. Drew Doughty found Muzzin with a crisp cross-ice pass atop San Jose’s zone; Muzzin, with time, walked in and fired a slap shot through Antti Niemi’s blocker side.

For the Kings, it was their 10th power play goal in their last 22 opportunities.

The Sharks were unable to generate many scoring opportunities, and Jonathan Quick showed poise in remaining focused after allowing a goal on San Jose’s first shot of the game. The Kings outshot San Jose 29-22.

Saturday’s win was a huge boost for the Kings, who were able to pocket seven of eight available points during their home stand. Even bigger for their morale, the Kings were able to snap the Sharks’ eight-game point streak.

“They are a division rival, so when you get points against them it’s more than just two points, it’s huge,” Drew Doughty said following the win. “We need to be moving up in the playoff standings and moving up in the division, and in order to do that we need to beat division teams.”

That, they did.

Marian Gaborik, with an assist Saturday, is now on a six-game point streak (7G, 3A). Anze Kopitar, with a goal and an assist, extends his point streak to five games (2G, 10A). Jamie McBain is on a three-game point streak (1G, 2A), Trevor Lewis is as well (2G, 1A). Jeff Carter now has eight points (3G, 5A) in the last five games.

Anze Kopitar (1G, 1A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), Jeff Carter in shots taken (5), Jamie McBain, Kyle Clifford, and Matt Greene in hits delivered (4), Jake Muzzin, Jarret Stoll, and Matt Greene in shots blocked (2), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (28:04). Jonathan Quick made 21 saves in the win.

With the victory, the Kings’ record jumps to 18-11-7; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center bumps up to 14-4-2. In completing their four-game home stand Saturday night, the Kings finished with a 3-0-1 record. The Kings will now venture out on a three-game road trip through Western Canada. They’ll be in Alberta Monday night to take on the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The puck is slated to drop at 6:00PM PT.

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