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The Key Three: Jan. 9

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals...

1. Gritty around the net
Before he could be asked a question in his postgame press conference, Darryl Sutter stepped before the media and mumbled a couple phrases. ``Get to the net...stop around the net.’’ Sutter probably wakes up in the middle of the night saying things like that. There’s no secret. When the Kings are at their best, they’re using their size and grit to make things difficult in the area immediately in front of the opposing goal. The Kings still could be better at ``taking away the goalie’s eyes,’’ but on Monday, they were at least able to capitalize, several times, when Tomas Vokoun left juicy rebounds. The Kings were in good position and took advantage.

2. Early bounce-back effort
Things look ominous for the Kings when Jonathan Bernier allowed a soft goal just 94 seconds into the game. The Capitals have been strong of late, and an early two-goal deficit might easily have doomed the Kings to defeat. Credit the Kings, though, for not panicking and getting control of the game. Bernier finished with 20 saves, and didn’t allow another goal until the Kings held a 5-1 lead. The defense did a stellar job in front of Bernier and, most importantly, the Kings rebounded from the early deficit to score two first-period goals. This, from a team that had scored only 16 first-period goals all season, was a major breakthrough.

3. Not-so-great No. 8
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has been on a tear of late, with five goals in his previous four games entering Monday. But when the Capitals’ greatest threat is Marcus Johansson, the Kings have to feel pretty good about that, and about their defensive effort in general. The Capitals had totaled 16 goals in their previous five games, but the Kings kept them -- and Ovechkin in particular -- bottled up fairly well. Ovechkin finished with three shots on goal in 22-plus minutes of ice time. To be certain, the Kings benefited from the absence of Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, but slowing down Ovechkin was critical, and the Kings did a good job.
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