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Kings edge Lightning for fifth consecutive win

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- It seems as though any player wearing a jersey number in the 70s is performing well for the Los Angeles Kings these days.

Jordan Nolan scored 3:36 into the third period and Jeff Carter scored the game-winning goal at 13:58 of the third to give the Kings a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Staples Center on Monday.

The Kings (26-18-12) won their fifth straight, their longest streak since they won six in a row from Oct.12-26. They badly needed to do so because the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, who are ahead of them in the Pacific Division, also won Monday.

"Things are coming together for us," Anze Kopitar said. "We're playing with more desperation. We should have before, but now it's clicking for us. We're getting some breaks too, that certainly doesn't hurt. We've just got to keep on going. We're still in a hole. We know that."

Nolan took a pass from Dwight King, moved to the slot and lifted a backhand into the right side of the net 3:36 into the third. Nolan, who scored two goals in his first 31 games, has two in the past three games. He looked as surprised as anybody on the play.

"I lifted up my head, and I kind of just threw it on hoping it would sneak through, but, yeah, it went in," Nolan said.

Carter scored his 16th goal on a wrist shot to finish a rush and help sweep the season series against the Lightning (35-18-6), who are 1-1-0 on a five-game trip.

Tyler Johnson pulled Tampa Bay within one with 36 seconds remaining with an extra attacker.

The latest version of "That 70s Line" of King, Carter and Tyler Toffoli has combined for 10 goals and 11 assists over the past five games. King extended his point streak to a career-high four games. Nolan wears No. 71 and is a fourth-line checking right wing, so coach Darryl Sutter liked the balance.

"We scored big goals tonight," Sutter said. "Nolan's goal is a big goal. Obviously Carter's goal is a big goal. Getting goals from different lines, you can't just get it from one line, you have to be able to spread it around a little bit."

The Lightning are typically a strong third-period team, having gone 10-1-2 when tied after two periods before Monday. But they ran into the more organized and motivated Kings.

"They're a tough team to play against," Johnson said. "They're very structured. They don't give you very much. You beat one guy, you always have another guy there. I don't think we played well enough in the third period. I don't think we stuck to our structure enough. We weren't forcing plays. We weren't moving our feet as much. But credit to them. They played a solid third period as well."

Kopitar re-energized the Kings with his 12th goal, a wrist shot that rose above Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's outstretched right leg pad to tie it 1-1 at 7:04 of the second. Trevor Lewis made the pass to trigger the partial breakaway and Kopitar ended a 10-game scoring drought.

"I don't know what it was, but we just woke up," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "Definitely [Kopitar's] goal gave us a little bit of a boost. To see him going and put pucks in the net is huge for our team. When he's playing well, everyone plays well."

Tampa Bay outplayed Los Angeles in the first seven minutes of the period and didn't get the momentum back until late in the second.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper cited playing the second game of a back-to-back and said it was an evenly-played game.

"We're playing our sixth period of hockey in less than 24 hours against some good, strong heavy Western teams," Cooper said. "We hung in there. I thought it was a game we could get points out of. It was tough. We gave up the second one, which we eventually made up, but the third one was a backbreaker."

Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov scored his first NHL goal at 12:11 of the first period. Ondrej Palat drove to the net and put a shot on goal that bounced out to the pinching Nesterov, who scored on a snap shot from the left side. It came in his 13th NHL game.

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