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The Key Three: Dec. 31

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks

The Kings had just taken a 2-1 lead in the second period when Mike Richards got called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty. The Kings had already kept the Canucks’ power play, ranked No. 1 in the NHL entering the game, off the scoreboard twice, but this would be the biggest challenge, particularly since part of the power play was 4-on-3. Not only did the Kings kill all four minutes of the Canucks’ power play -- without Richards, one of their top penalty killers -- but they scored a massive goal just nine seconds after it ended, when Anze Kopitar tucked a backhand shot past Roberto Luongo to give the Kings a two-goal lead.

It would have been easy for the game to get away from the Kings early in the first period. The Canucks, one of the hottest, highest-scoring teams in the NHL, got a goal just 3:06 into the game. Before Saturday, the Kings had allowed the first goal in 20 games, and they had gone on to win only five of those games in regulation. Not great odds. The Kings, though, didn’t fold. If anything, they started to take over the game almost immediately after Kevin Bieksa’s goal, and played a solid first period. Brad Richardson’s hard-work, game-tying goal 9:13 into the game allowed the Kings to feel good at the first intermission.

The Kings scrapped against the Canucks, but they did it smartly. Whether certain parts of the continent like to admit it or not, part of the Canucks’ game is built around their ability to frustrate opponents by diving and forcing them into taking bad penalties. For the most part, the Kings didn’t bite. Jarret Stoll did early, when he took a post-whistle roughing penalty in front of the Vancouver net, but that got evened out in the third period, when Alexandre Burrows got a near-identical penalty. The Kings played a physical game, but they didn’t get out of control and take unnecessary, dumb penalties against a dangerous Canucks team.
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