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The Key Three: March 16

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks...

It was the type of move, and shot, that shows why expectations on Anze Kopitar are so high. Just more than nine minutes into the game, Kopitar cruised into the Ducks’ zone, then decided he would go to the net. With great force. Kopitar caught Lubomir Visnovsky flat-footed with a burst to the outside. That gave Kopitar space and then, in the right circle, he ripped a gorgeous shot past Jonas Hiller. The Kings already had a 1-0 lead, but it was the type of goal that allowed the Kings to say, ``This is our game.’’ Of course, the Ducks nearly took that game back in the second and third periods, but Kopitar’s goal was a pace-setter for the first period.

There’s no question that the Kings had reason for concern, when the Ducks pulled within one goal early in the third period. For all their struggles this season, the Ducks can still put world-class players such as Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf on the ice. The Kings even had their penalty-kill invincibility shattered in the second period. But when the Ducks got a power play with fewer than six minutes remaining in the third period of a 3-2 game, the Kings were at their best. They played with poise, made the simple, smart, correct plays and didn’t allow the Ducks to score or generate any real momentum in a tight game.

Darryl Sutter talked about it after the morning skate yesterday, the ability of the Kings’ defensemen to get involved in scoring chances. A few hours later, the Kings showed what they could do in that area. Early in the first period, Alec Martinez wristed in an accurate shot from the blue line (thanks in part to a nice screen in front by Jordan Nolan). Then, an opportunistic Drew Doughty picked up the puck after Corey Perry fell, and Doughty started a 2-on-1 break with Justin Williams that led to Williams’ goal. It’s a delicate balance, getting defensemen more involved in offense without compromising defensive structure, but the Kings have been improving.
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