The Key Three: March 17
Three key aspects of the Kings' 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators
1. FOUR LINES, FOUR GOALS
It’s almost as though they all lined up for roll call. First line? Present, on Anze Kopitar’s sharp wrist-shot goal in the first period. Second line? Present, on Dwight King’s nice finish after a skilled turnover forced by Jeff Carter. Third line? Present, on a great pass-and-finish combination courtesy of Trevor Lewis and Dustin Penner. Fourth line? Present, on a brilliant pass by Jordan Nolan and a great net-front move by Kyle Clifford. Getting a goal from the fourth line is an unexpected bonus for any team. But if the Kings can get some contributions from the third line, and keep the first two lines going at a decent pace, they could be a balanced, tough team.
2. THE TENNESSEE KID
There’s Tennessee Williams, the writer. There’s Tennessee Ernie Ford, best known for his rendition of the song ``Sixteen Tons.’’ Then there’s Tennessee Jo Bernier. Maybe it doesn’t quite fit, since there’s no twang in Bernier’s French accent, but Bernier’s tie to the state -- and particularly the city of Nashville -- is indelible. Bernier now has a 6-1-0 career record against the Predators. Against the rest of the NHL, he’s 14-16-4. Is there something to it? Maybe there is. So much of goaltending is mental, and if a goalie feels good, maybe he will play good. Bernier got the job done last night with a sharp, composed 19-save effort in a big game.
3. ANOTHER GOOD START
Yes, the Kings did the game-defining damage in the third period, but once again, they set the tone with a good start. The turnaround, in terms of first-period play, has been far and away the most dramatic improvement under Darryl Sutter. The Kings sometimes take things a bit over the line -- Jarret Stoll’s aggressiveness is good, but he needs to watch those early penalties -- but for the most part, the Kings are coming out of the gate with purpose and enthusiasm. They have the attitude of taking the game to the opponent, rather than sitting back and having the game dictated to them. Down the stretch, this will be increasingly important.