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Clifford leads Kings past Sens

by Curtis Zupke
LOS ANGELES – If the Los Angeles Kings had any say in the schedule, they would probably have the Ottawa Senators make a few more visits to L.A.

Their meetings are rare but Los Angeles has a strange stranglehold on the Senators that continued with a 4-1 victory at the Staples Center on Monday night.

L.A. had a four-goal outburst led by a "Gordie Howe hat trick" by fourth-line wing Kyle Clifford and pulled into a first-place tie with San Jose in the Pacific Division on its final game before the All-Star break.

Ottawa suffered consecutive regulation losses for the first time since Nov.9-11 and fell to 1-11-1 all-time in Los Angeles. The Senators' only win here came in January of 2000.

"It's great for our team," Clifford said. "We got a lot of confidence here and we've got a good group of guys, so, coming off a win, going into the break, none of these guys are going to be relaxed. We're going to keep focused here and we’re going to take a little bit of downtime here, but when we come back we're going to come right back to work."

Coach Darryl Sutter thought Clifford was emblematic of the Kings' performance.

"A kid like that goes to war for you, you better respond in an emotional way," Sutter said.

Sutter saw that emotion come alive late in a three-goal second period. Ottawa gave L.A. a two-man advantage on a tripping penalty by Zack Smith on Mike Richards.

Jack Johnson one-timed Drew Doughty's pass from the top of the right circle to put the Kings ahead, 3-0 -- a key score considering L.A. is 12-0-1 when it scores three goals.

The Kings got a break with 32.9 seconds to go in the second period when Chris Phillips was called for closing his hand on the puck in the crease although replays showed Phillips only nudged the puck away.

Lewis was awarded a penalty shot and deked right to score on Craig Anderson for a 4-0 lead, an unheard of advantage for the Kings and a mountain of a climb for Ottawa given L.A.'s 73-0-5 record over its past 78 games when leading after two periods.

Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said it could have been a turning point.

"It shouldn't have been a penalty shot," MacLean said. "We get the benefit of replay one or two or three times. I don't think it's reviewable in Toronto on that kind of a call. Having video means to get it right … that's why we should have video."

The Senators ultimately looked back on not creating enough quality scoring chances, though. They produced only one goal in 9:06 minutes of power play time and that came by Daniel Alfredsson at 8:37 of the third when the game was largely decided.

"The work ethic was there," Phillips said. "We got some decent number of shots on net. We're not going to get too many goals from the outside. We have to do a better job of getting to the net, jump on rebounds. They did a pretty good job of that tonight. They were grabbing the net hard, and made things happen there in front of us."

Clifford completed the goal-assist-fight hat trick with a score in the second period to cap an outstanding night for the Kings' fourth line.

"First one (in the NHL)," Clifford said. "(Kevin) Westgarth and I had a bet that whoever got the first one gets a porterhouse steak."

The last time Clifford had a "Gordie How hat trick?"

"It would have been junior, if that," Clifford said. "I don't know. This might have been the first. I'd have to look back on stats on the Barrie (Colts of the OHL) days."

Clifford followed his own shot from the left side and banged home the rebound at 11:08 for a 2-0 lead.
Clifford got his assist in the first period when he worked the puck around to Mitchell at the left point and Mitchell's soft wrist shot went in through traffic created by Kevin Westgarth.

Clifford's line finished with four points and a plus-6 rating.

"We're burying our chances," said Clifford, whose three goals this season equals Dustin Penner's output. "We've had chances all year. Just around the net, we're getting that bounce and we're really bearing down and our will to score is really paying off."

Ottawa had a scare in the pre-game warm-up when a helmet-less Jason Spezza was hit by the puck and suffered a cut above his eye.

Anderson was replaced by Alex Auld to start the third period.
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