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Kings even series by beating Sharks 4-0

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Stanley Cup Playoffs can turn into a coming-out-party for a player who has been performing under the radar --- not that Drew Doughty hasn't already earned a reputation as one of the NHL's elite defensemen in just his third season.

The 21-year-old, a Norris Trophy finalist a year ago, added to his status Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Doughty scored twice and assisted on two other goals as the Los Angeles Kings routed the San Jose Sharks 4-0.

Playing without suspended center Jarret Stoll, the Kings turned to goalie Jonathan Quick, a defense corps that registered 3 goals, 4 assists and 11 blocked shots, as well as an efficient power play to even the Western Conference quarterfinal series at one victory each.

Quick turned aside 34 shots for the first shutout by a Kings goalie since 2002 when Felix Potvin blanked Colorado 1-0 in Game 5 of a first-round series.

"We had a lot of adversity before this game with two of our top centers out," said Doughty, referring to Stoll and Anze Kopitar, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle March 26. "I guess a lot of people probably didn't think we had a chance tonight, so I guess we showed those people wrong."

Suffice it to say the Kings are more than happy to head home with a split as the series moves to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

"The right guys stepped up and produced at the right time tonight," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "The old cliché is getting a split on the road at the start of a series. We had to come out and pour it all in. We know there's two days until the next game, and the guys held nothing back. They really paid a price in this game to get the job done."

The Kings also got a goal and an assist from defenseman Jack Johnson and a third-period goal from grinding rookie forward Kyle Clifford, who converted Brad Richardson's goalmouth feed at 4:54 after outbattling Sharks center Joe Thornton in front.

That was more than enough for Quick.

"Guys dug in," he said. "We had a big effort from everyone in the locker room. At the end of the day, it's just one win. We need three more to move on. We're looking forward to Game 3 and looking forward to getting the same result."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan was surprised by, and angry about, the way his team failed to give the Kings much of a battle.

"If we don't have a bit of anger and a bit of shame, I would be extremely disappointed," he said. "When you look at the game, it's hard to find two or three guys who really competed at the level that they needed to. Obviously we need to be better in a lot of different areas. I thought we started well tonight and then we were very undisciplined as far as penalties go. You can't do that. We have to understand that liberties and trying to get away with things doesn't happen now, and it really comes back to cost you.

"I thought they were a much more competitive team than we were. We can talk about systems, but it has to start with the competitiveness. We expect a lot more from every individual."

The Kings took advantage of the Sharks' undisciplined play in the opening period to grab a 2-0 lead on power-play goals by Johnson and Doughty.

"We were moving the puck well," said Doughty, whose four points tied the franchise playoff record by a defenseman set by Paul Coffey in 1992. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft already has accumulated 5 goals and 6 assists in just eight career postseason games.

"We studied their PK and we saw their tendencies and we exploited them," Doughty added. "We moved the puck quick, found the seams and got pucks to the net. We had great net presence as well. Those are the keys to a successful power play."

Murray has seen this act before, even if Doughty had somewhat of a subpar regular season with 11 goals and 29 assists in 76 games.

"He's playing the last quarter of the season the way he played last year," Murray said. "He's skating, he's comfortable with the puck. He's a dominant player. I think he can take control of every shift he wants to when he's out there, and that's the kind of attitude he's played these last 20 games down the home stretch and here tonight.

"That's the important part of it. When you need something big to happen, like we did tonight because of the adversity we faced, the key guys have to step up and Doughty has always shown that ability to make the play at the right time and step up to try and be assertive and get things turned around if necessary.

"What's his upside? It's unlimited as far as I'm concerned He's got great ability, great skill. He's the best young defenseman I've seen maybe going back in the last 10 years. He's really got incredible potential."

Doughty increased the lead to 3-0 at 15:42 of the second period. After having his original shot blocked at the right point, he regained possession, backpedaled to his left and fired a shot from just inside the blue line that skimmed along the ice and made its way through traffic into the net.

In the first period, Johnson drew a slashing penalty by Ben Eager and the Kings made him pay 46 seconds later. Doughty passed across to Johnson at the left point for a slap shot behind screened goalie Antti Niemi at 12:13.

It was Doughty's turn at 15:43. First, he absorbed a slash from Ryane  Clowe, who also took a cross-checking penalty later in the period.

The Sharks nearly killed off the slashing infraction, but Ryan Smyth fed Doughty in the high slot for a blast that beat Niemi to the stick side with seven seconds left on the man advantage.
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