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|Post Game Other Side - 02.05.11 - Sun, 06 Feb 2011|
|Kings vs. Flames Shootout - 2/5 - Sun, 06 Feb 2011|
|Keep Your Eye On That Puck - Sun, 06 Feb 2011|
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|Fight Club: Hammond vs Frawley - Fri, 04 Feb 2011|
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CALGARY -- So much time had passed that Dustin Brown couldn't remember the year. When did the Kings last win a game in Calgary? Perhaps in 2003? Maybe 2005?
``I don't know if it was my first year or the year after the lockout,'' Brown said after the Kings did what, in recent years, had seemed all but impossible: win at the Saddledome.
Brown is the only current Kings player still remaining from the team's previous victory in Calgary. For the record, it took place Dec. 21, 2005. Now, though, the Kings can add Feb. 5, 2011, to the ledger, as they beat the Flames 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday night.
To little surprise, the win didn't come easy. That only figures, given that the Kings had lost 10 consecutive games in Calgary and totaled seven goals in their last six games there.
After losing leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, the Kings did just enough in order to record the extra point in the standings. Justin Williams scored in the seventh round of the shootout and, after he allowed goals in the first two rounds, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped five consecutive shooters to improve to 6-0 in shootouts this season.
``We have to make that next step,'' said Williams, who also had a goal and two assists in regulation. ``Today was a statement game. We won. We weren't at our best at times, but we need to keep pushing forward. Hopefully this is something big for us, to start.''
The victory held significance on a couple fronts.
Most immediately, the Kings are off to a 2-0-1 start in their run of 10 consecutive road games, which will continue, after four days off, on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Most importantly, the Kings -- at least for the next day -- are back in the Western Conference playoff picture. With 60 points, the Kings moved into eighth place, just one point ahead of ninth-place Minnesota but also only five points behind third-place Dallas.
In fact, after Saturday's games, all five Pacific Division teams had moved into the top eight in the conference. Since the NHL went to its three-division format, there has never been a season in which every team in a single division has made the playoffs.
It's still too early to seriously consider that, though, given that every team still has approximately 30 games remaining. From the Kings' perspective, at least things are trending in the right direction, as they are now 5-0-1 in their last six games.
``It's so tight,'' said Brown, who scored a regulation goal. ``We're happy with the result. I'm sure (the Flames) wanted two points, and I know there are six or seven other teams that are saying, `Why the hell is it a three-point game?' It's a little early to be looking at other teams' scores, but you always notice the three-point games. For us right now, it's really about focusing on our game, because we've got to win games, regardless.''
Saturday's effort was far from perfect, as the Kings were outshot 35-33, lost three leads -- including a 3-2 third-period lead -- and failed to score on a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage late in the second period, when they had a chance to take a two-goal lead. Their undefeated record when leading after two periods also fell into serious danger.
``It got intense at times,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``There's a lot of heavy play, board play, whenever you play the Calgary Flames. It looked like two teams, to me, that have been playing some hockey on the road. They're coming back. The game, at times, to me, was very sloppy. There were pucks not being handled properly, and turnovers by both teams that, I think, are uncharacteristic. I can't speak for anybody else.
``I just want to speak for our own team. We just have to go back home, get some practice time in and clean up a bunch of things before we get back on the road, because we'd never get another two points out of it, going through a game like that.''
Quick and Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff have both been strong in shootout this season -- the Flames lead the league with seven shootout wins this season -- but for a while, it looked as though the shooters would rule the shootout.
Calgary's Rene Bourque started it, and scored. So did the Kings' Michal Handzus, as part of the Kings' new-look shootout lineup. Calgary's Alex Tanguay? Goal. The Kings' Jarret Stoll? Goal. Then, the goalies were perfect from the third round through the sixth.
Quick had fortune, and some quick thinking, on his side. Curtis Glencross' shot deflected up and hit the crossbar before Quick was able to reach up and bat it down. Brendan Morrison shot wide and, in the seventh round, Jay Bouwmeester hit the post.
``It's always a good feeling when you let in a couple early and the team gives you support,'' Quick said. ``We got a couple big goals early, and then Willy buried it at the end there for us.''
Bouwmeester's miss gave Williams a chance to end the shootout. Williams, who scored a regulation goal and had an overall strong game, had just watched Kiprusoff make poke-check stops on teammates Brown and Drew Doughty.
Williams skated in and beat Kiprusoff from the slot with a sharp wrist shot.
``I was just down there with Quickie [Jonathan Quick] for a second, and he told me to just do what I do,'' Williams said. ``I was thinking shot the whole way. I wasn't going to deke and lose the puck. I, at least, had to make a shot at it.
``I had two earlier this year that I didn't score on. I just had to put a smile on my face, and whatever happens, happens. I was able to make the shot.''
With that, the Kings celebrated in Calgary for the first time since 2005. In fact, the Flames organization has more people who participated in the Kings' previous win in Calgary. Flames forward Tom Kostopoulos and recently-retired forward (and new front-office member) Craig Conroy were both members of that 2005-06 Kings team.
Murray didn't downplay the Kings' futility in Calgary. He brought attention to it during a team meeting, and players were already aware of the Kings' recent struggles in Calgary.
``This hasn't been a very successful barn for us,'' Williams said. ``Unfortunately we have up the late lead, but we got the extra point.''
In fact, Alberta hasn't been kind to the Kings in general. For the first time in franchise history, the Kings swept the Flames and Edmonton Oilers in the same road trip. They had failed in 40 such previous attempts.
The first two minutes of the game provided a clear indication that things weren't going to be easy for either team.
The Kings took the lead 39 seconds into the game. Williams pushed the puck up to the blue line, to Rob Scuderi, who took a long-range shot. There was a quick deflection off the stick of Calgary's Mark Giordano, and Kiprusoff made the initial stop but the puck trickled through his pads and over the line. Ryan Smyth also got an assist.
The goal was Scuderi's second of the season. He had never previously scored more than one goal in a season.
Once again, though, the Kings allowed a goal quickly after scoring one, as the Flames tied the game at the 1:21 mark. Off an offensive-zone faceoff win by Morrison, defenseman Robyn Regehr fired a wrist shot from the blue line, through significant traffic, that beat Quick cleanly and high to tie the game 1-1.
The Kings got the lead back with a power-play goal at the 6:17 mark. Williams took the puck to the net from the right side, and his pass attempt was deflected by Morrison, but it went directly to Brown, to the left of the net. Brown misfired on his first shot attempt but put his rebound past Kiprusoff to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.
Calgary tied the game 2-2 just 45 seconds into the second period. After a scramble in front of the Kings' net, Morrison tracked down the puck below the goal line and centered it to Alex Tanguay, who scored from close range.
The Kings got the lead back with 8:58 remaining in the second period, just nine seconds after the end of a power play. Loktionov found some open ice above the right circle and put a shot toward the net. Williams, in front, missed his deflection attempt, but was there to pick up the rebound, after a Kiprusoff save, and scored from close range to give the Kings a 3-2 lead.
Williams recorded his third point of the night and is now tied the team lead with 19 goals this season.
``He's been one of our best players all year,'' Brown said. ``Especially early on, he was producing a lot of points. He's one of those players who, he's not one of the biggest guys, but he always has a knack for finding those loose pucks. His goal is a good example of that. Me and him are battling in front. He's probably the smallest guy in front of the net, but he finds a way to get the puck.''
Calgary tied the game 3-3 with 8:45 remaining in the third period. Already on the power play, the Flames were in a delayed-penalty situation when Morrison's centering attempt got all the way through the crease. Tanguay was on the other side of it, and scored from close range at a tight angle for his second goal of the game.
The Kings had only four shots on goal in the third period but were able to hang on for overtime, where they claimed the extra point. Even if Murray was somewhat dissatisfied with the effort, he was glad to claim five points in the first three road games.
``It's great to get the points, no question,'' Murray said. ``It's a critical time of the year to put some points on the board and keep climbing in the standings. It's the first time in five years that the L.A. Kings have got any points, two points, out of here. For that, we're happy, but we know we've got to get back to work right away.''