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Kings start homestand by routing Sharks

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES – A save by Jonathan Bernier's glove hand was worth two points in the rematch for the Los Angeles Kings.

Bernier got his glove on Tommy Wingels second-period penalty shot to short-circuit San Jose's momentum, and L.A. responded with three goals in a 7:41 span on the way to a 5-2 win Saturday night.

The Kings split the home-and-home set with their Northern California rivals thanks to Bernier and an impressive night from Kyle Clifford, who recorded his first career multiple-goal game and also had a second-period fight against the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Douglas Murray.

"He had a big hit on [Anze Kopitar] there, so I wanted to make to step up and make sure he knew what was going on," Clifford said. "He's a big boy, a big strong guy."

Los Angeles stepped up and avoided losing three in a row in regulation for the first time since a five-game skid in December 2011. The Kings also avenged Thursday's 4-3 loss at San Jose.

"We kind of have that New England Patriot mindset where we don't want to lose two in a row," said Clifford, one of 12 Kings to hit the scoresheet. "Coming off a two-game loss, that's big for us. We definitely wanted to come back here."

San Jose continued to struggle on the road and lost Ryane Clowe to an undisclosed injury in the first period. Coach Todd McLellan did not have an update on Clowe -- but he did open his postgame press conference with a scorched-earth dressing down of his team and said it was "easily" their most disappointing game of the season.

"How frigging disappointing is that?" McLellan said. "We play against the Stanley Cup champions back-to-back. We're lucky enough to win one in San Jose. We come here and you got to think they'd to be champing at the bit and be ready to go, and they're going to push you, and what a great opportunity for our team to test themselves collectively, but also individually: Do I belong in the NHL? When I look across, can I outplay the guy that I line up against? We had a lot of passengers. So disappointing. So disappointing."

Clifford pushed home a loose puck at 13:45 of the middle period after Dustin Penner outraced Justin Braun for a breakaway to make it 4-1 and chase Antti Niemi. Dwight King completed the three-goal barrage with a shot from the left circle at 18:56.

After Bernier's big save at 7:58 of the middle period, L.A. got rolling on a seemingly harmless give-and-go play in which Trevor Lewis' pass hit Jarret Stoll before Stoll collected the puck and backhanded it past Niemi at 11:15 for a 3-1 lead.

"That third goal, I think we calmed down after that," said Bernier, who is 6-0-0 with a 1.57 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in seven starts. "Then we just kept scoring, scoring. But they had a good game. After their first goal, they came at us really hard, and they had some good play in our zone. And they're a good team. We knew it wasn't going to be easy."

The Kings continue to thrive in Staples Center, having outscored opponents 40-20 during a 9-1 run at home. L.A. is 10-1-1 here since an opening-day loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Sharks, with just 16 goals scored in their past 12 road games and a 2-8-2 record in that span. Patrick Marleau scored 35 seconds into the second period, and Matt Irwin added a last-minute power-play goal.

Logan Couture said the start of the second was "probably the only five to 10 minutes we played well all night" and talked about his team's inconsistency.

"It's very frustrating," Couture said. "'You want to put good back-to-back good efforts out there, and we can't seem to right now. I've said it before -- we need to be consistent to make the playoffs and we're not consistent right now. We haven't been all year. We've got half a season to change that."

San Jose did not put a shot on goal until Wingels' backhand more than 12 minutes into game, and it immediately led to the Kings' second goal. Kopitar started the rush and Justin Williams finished it with a centering pass that hit Brad Stuart's backside and into the net at 12:19.

L.A. scored on its first shot of the game when Clifford's steep-angled shot from the right side made it through Niemi, who otherwise made 10 saves in the opening period to manage a flat start by San Jose, which was outshot 12-5.

Asked how much blame was on Niemi and how much was on others, McLellan said, "They scored on the first shot. When you need a save early in the game, they scored on the first shot. They got the momentum rolling from there. But there was a lot of other people involved in all 60 minutes, not just Nemo."

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