Kings Win 5th Straight, Slide into 8th Place
Anze Kopitar and the Kings win their fifth straight for the first time this year. (photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Needless to say, the Kings offense is certainly clicking at the right time. With a 5-2 win over division rival San Jose Tuesday night, Los Angeles improved their record to 9-3 since the addition of Jeff Carter and vaulted themselves back into the playoff picture for the first time in over a week. With nine games left in the season, the Kings are tied with Phoenix for the eighth seed with eighty-four points.
Mike Richards (who, after an extended post-Christmas slump) netted his third goal of the month on a shorthanded opportunity to give the Kings a 1-0 lead late in the first period. The Sharks’ Martin Havlat responded quickly, in fact, twenty-two seconds later with a wrister over the glove hand of Jonathan Quick to tie the contest at one.
Los Angeles earned a reputation this year as a team which typically plays down to the opposition’s level, but one wouldn’t get that impression tonight as they continually beat San Jose to loose pucks, remained strong on the forecheck and used their size as an advantage for nearly every play against the boards.
A tough first fifteen minutes of the second period gave way to a Alec Martinez goal, his fourth of the season and undoubtedly his biggest on the year. The nimble defenseman cruised to the left of Antti Niemi, received a pass from Anze Kopitar and perfectly placed a shot in the upper corner of the net to give his team the lead once again.
Kopitar added a crucial power play tally four minutes into the third period with an impressive display of patience before registering his team-leading twenty-fourth goal of the season. With the previous primary assist on Martinez’s score, Kopitar also earned his fortieth assist, which also leads his Kings in that category.
Of course, San Jose wouldn’t back off anytime soon. They quickly got themselves within one goal, this time courtesy of Dan Boyle, who placed a shot in seemingly the only place Jonathan Quick would be unable to reach it. The hitting and repeated scoring chances for both sides continued for the next ten minutes until Dustin Penner (of all people) flew down the left side of the ice and deposited the puck just to the right of Niemi’s pad for the 4-2 advantage.
Carter added an empty netter late into the contest to seal a huge win for the hometown Kings and yet another disappointing loss for the slumping Sharks. The other two immensely relevant games of the evening between Phoenix-Dallas and Calgary-Colorado both went into overtime and produced a total of at least one point for all the participants. With that being said, to lose ground tonight is a major blow to the Sharks’ playoff chances. They now find themselves in tenth place and a full two points behind L.A. in the eighth spot.
The Kings and Sharks will play one another two more times before the season draws to a close. Both games are sure to rival the tension and tenacity that this one contained Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
Looking forward for Los Angeles, things are about to get anything but easier. Their next three contests come against the Blues, Bruins and Canucks. That’s a tough stretch for any team, let alone one that desperately needs wins at every stop along the way to guarantee a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.