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The Key Three: Feb. 28

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild...

Whatever it is that motivates an NHL player to go to the net, to play in those hard, gritty areas, coaches would like to bottle that and uncork it on the bench before every game. For all the talk about systems and certain players’ streaks and slumps, the Kings would be exponentially better on offense if they could do one simple thing with regularity: go to the net. Dwight King scored from the front of the net. Anze Kopitar nearly had his skates over the line when he scored. Jordan Nolan scored because he was in front of the net to knock in Alec Martinez’s rebound. It’s a tough area in which to play, but it’s also highly effective.

It’s fair to say that nobody -- not even Justin Williams -- was happier to see Justin Williams’ deflection cross the goal line 44 seconds into the game than Jonathan Bernier. It had been 11 games since Bernier’s last start, and given that the Kings desperately needed a win, the pressure was on Bernier. He delivered. The early goal allowed the Kings to relax a bit and play with confidence, and Bernier did nothing to betray that confidence. At his best, Bernier is calm in the net, with no wasted movement, and he was at his best against Minnesota with 26 saves for fifth career shutout (and second against the Wild).

Nobody would have blamed the Kings if they had scored their second goal in the second period and then said, ``Thanks, but we’re good.’’ Memories are still fresh of that game, exactly one week earlier, in which the Kings led 3-0 after the first period but lost 5-4 in overtime. In that game, the Kings allowed two goals in the first six minutes of the second period, and were in hold-on-tight mode of the rest of the game. They avoided that against the Wild, largely because they avoided taking a penalty in the first nine minutes. The Wild got their chances in the final two periods, but the Kings played with poise and preserved a shutout.
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