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Power play continues to carry Kings

by Josh Brewster
LOS ANGELES -- In each game of their series against the Vancouver Canucks, the Los Angeles Kings' power play has been the club's elixir, curing all ills, tying games, winning games, setting the tone.

In Game 1, Fredrik Modin knotted the score and sent the game to overtime before the Kings lost. In Game 2, Anze Kopitar scored the overtime winner with the man advantage. Monday night, in Game 3 at Staples Center, an already outstanding Kings' power play was simply perfect, going 3-for-3 and paving the way for Los Angeles to take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).

"They've got so much skill so if you give them a little bit of time, they're going to make plays," the Canucks' Daniel Sedin said.

Now 7-for-12 with the man advantage and connecting at an astounding 58.3 percent clip, the Kings claim there's no secret to their success.

"If there's a secret, let me know," said a smiling Jack Johnson, who recorded three assists and was named the game's first star. "We're just taking what's given."

A standing-room-only crowd of 18,264 saw not only the first Kings playoff game on home ice since 2002, they saw what is clearly the League's most dangerous defensive pairing. Johnson's power-play partner, Drew Doughty, delivered a smashing performance of his own, adding one goal and three assists.

"I've got Drew there to work with, and he and I both agree that that's one of the strong suits in our game, creating offense from up there on the blue line," Johnson said. "First and foremost, he and I are having fun out there."

Doughty's first-period power play goal provided his club with a huge spark, tying the game at one apiece on a shot from the high slot at the 11-minute mark after Vancouver scored early.

"We've been drawing up that play for a little bit and it finally worked," Doughty said. "The puck hit a shaft of a stick or something, I didn't get all of it. The guys did a great job in front screening, and that's why it went in."

While Johnson insists there's no secret to the Kings' power-play prowess, Doughty and coach Terry Murray gave some clues to why the young pairing is so potent with the man advantage.

"(Johnson and I) have a couple of different elements," Doughty said. "Since he's a lefty and I'm a righty, we can switch and we'll be on our off-sides for one-timers. At other times, we'll be on their strong side so we can make passes at the same time. It's been great, a great addition to the power play. We're pretty happy."

"A big part of the success now is because of what they're doing on the back end," Murray said. "I'm big on having the activity start from the blue line."

"They're the guys that are the key to their power-play success this year," Henrik Sedin said of Johnson and Doughty. "They hold on to the puck. They make plays up on the blue line, which means we have to go out on the point with two guys. It opens a lot of things for their players down low."

"We're just taking shots and fortunately for us, the pucks are lying around there," Kopitar said. "Those two guys on the blue line are doing a great job and getting pucks through.  We're feasting on rebounds."

Vancouver features a defense capable of putting the puck in the net. In this series, it's been all Los Angeles. The Canucks have managed only three assists from their defense while the Kings have a goal and five assists, all from Johnson and Doughty. 

"They can move across the blue line backwards in a passing (or) shooting position as well as anybody in the League," Murray said. "When you have that kind of a look, and the puck is in a shooting position and a passing position, you're going to create some hesitancy. You'll make some players commit, they'll start to go down, looking to block shots.

"They can hang on (to the puck), move a couple more feet and now you've got a wrist shot for the net. We saw that tonight. It gives you a real weapon. When you see players move through the blue line like that, it's a very dangerous look."

Since they were playing at home Monday, the Kings got the last line change. Murray used checking line center Michal Handzus in a trio with Brad Richardson and Modin against Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows. With the man advantage, Handzus was a terror, scoring two power-play goals from in close.

"(Handzus) digs in in those situations, he loves the challenge," Murray said. "He knows before the game what his role is going to be, he's played it for many years. He's a good shutdown player. A strong and heavy guy, a great penalty killer. He had an outstanding game."

"He's a big body," Ryan Smyth said of Handzus. "He draws guys to him, he's hard to move out in front of the net. He plays a hard role. He plays power play, PK and a regular shift. He's a huge asset for us and it was huge to see him chip in those two goals around the crease."

Smyth said that for the Kings to control the action, power-play dominance is key.

"Whether we score or not, we want to carry momentum from the power play," Smyth said. "In this case, I believe it dictated the pace of the game for a while."

His penalty-kill now just 5-for-12, his power play, 2-for-11, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault is none too pleased.

"Our penalty-killing hasn't done the job and our power play hasn't done the job," he said.

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