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Power play carries Kings past Sharks

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings learned their lesson over the Christmas break.

Jake Muzzin and Anze Kopitar scored back-to-back power-play goals to give the Kings a 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center on Saturday. The Kings (18-11-7) snapped San Jose's six-game point streak (5-0-1) and avoided consecutive home losses for the first time this season.

The victory came after the Kings blew a 3-1 third-period lead at home Monday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. It was an uncharacteristic breakdown for the Kings, who cited more consistency and reducing their goals-against as areas in need of improvement coming out of the four-day break.

They held the Sharks (19-12-5) to 13 shots through two periods and held the NHL's top-ranked power play scoreless on two late opportunities.

"We've been known to play like that," Kopitar said. "Even though we were up a couple of goals, you just want to keep on going. Everybody says the best defense is offense anyway. You keep the puck away from them. You keep it to yourself. It's the best thing to do. [Coach] Darryl [Sutter's] been preaching on checking a lot lately, so I thought we did a good job of that too."

Muzzin's slap shot went into the net off Sharks goalie Antti Niemi's chest at 3:18 of the third period to finish a sequence of excellent puck movement and give the Kings a two-goal lead. Kopitar converted Marian Gaborik's rebound on the power play at 10:13 of the second to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. Gaborik tried to backhand the puck five-hole on Niemi but it went to the right side, where Kopitar was open. James Sheppard was in the penalty box for an offensive-zone tripping penalty on Kings defenseman Jamie McBain.

Los Angeles is 10-for-23 on the power play in its past five games. The Kings have scored two or more power-play goals in four straight games for the first time since 1993.

"I think, finally, pucks are just going in for us," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I don't think that we weren't generating chances in the past. I think we always generated. We have so much firepower on our power-play units that it's got to score more goals … it's coming together."

The Kings tied the Sharks with 43 points in the standings, and they are an impressive 6-1-3 against the Pacific Division.

San Jose did not have sustained pressure in the last half of the game outside of a shift that produced a power play at the end of the second period. The Sharks got no shots on that power play and two on Justin Williams' tripping penalty with 3:50 left.

"It's such a fine line sometimes with the power play," forward Joe Pavelski said. "We had a few looks and we didn't score. They had a few looks and they scored, so we have to get back to the basics and get pucks out, be in a [passing] lane, and be a little tighter. When we were a little aggressive it was probably not the right time."

The Sharks' 22 shots were their third-lowest total this season. Coach Todd McLellan didn't even like their first period and was concerned about his team's 5-on-5 play.

"They were a better team the whole night," McLellan said of the Kings. "The obvious is we were beat in special-teams situations. I think that's real evident. But I think there's much more to it than that. A lot of the grinding part and the hard part of the game, we were beaten in those areas as well. They were better on the walls. They were better defending, taking time and space away. Their forecheck was better."

Tyler Toffoli snapped a 10-game scoring slump to tie the game 1-1 in the first period. McBain made a terrific diagonal pass to Toffoli on the left side as the Sharks were caught puck-watching, and Toffoli shot the puck into an open net at 14:04.

The Kings could have taken a first-period lead but Niemi stopped Jeff Carter on a partial breakaway.

Pavelski gave San Jose an early lead when he scored his 17th goal 2:39 into the game. Williams lost the puck to Joe Thornton in the corner, and Thornton fed Pavelski for a shot that dribbled through goaltender Jonathan Quick and skidded across the goal line.

Williams' giveaway was one of eight by the Kings in the first period and 17 overall by L.A. But San Jose couldn't take advantage. Did the hiatus kill San Jose's momentum?

"If it would have been just us on the break, maybe, but the whole league was on a break, so you can't use that as any sort of excuse," forward Tommy Wingels said.

San Jose left wing Micheal Haley played in his first NHL game since May 25, 2013; he was recalled Friday from the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League. McBain's three-game point streak is his longest since December 2011.

Sutter passed Tom Webster for fifth on the Kings all-time list for coaching victories.

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