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|03/29/11 - Pre Game - Coach Murray - Tue, 29 Mar 2011|
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|03/29/11 - Pre Game - Penner - Tue, 29 Mar 2011|
|Poker Game With Ali Nejad - Tue, 29 Mar 2011|
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EDMONTON -- Oh, Canada, it was a good night to be an American-born King.
Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis are the only American forwards on the Kings' active roster, and they combined on two outstanding goals as the Kings earned an important 2-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night at Rexall Place.
In their first game without leading scorer Anze Kopitar -- who is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday to repair torn ankle ligaments -- the Kings got offensive production from, arguably, the two forwards they would most like to see step forward.
Brown scored two second-period goals -- giving him a team-high 27 for the season -- and Lewis assisted on both goals in his first game as a second-line center. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season and his third career shutout.
``I think this was an important game for us, as a team, considering everything that has happened in the last week with injuries,'' Brown said. ``I thought we had the right attitude coming out. Coming into this game, that was the one thing we were concerned about, was how we were going to react to the adversity that we're going to have to go through, and I thought we played a real solid game.''
To be certain, the games will get tougher from here. The Kings' opponents in the final two weeks of the season include Western Conference-leading Vancouver, as well as Dallas, San Jose, Phoenix and Anaheim, all battling for playoff position in a tight conference.
By contrast, Tuesday's game was against a hobbled Edmonton team that has been in the conference basement all season. Still, it was a deep-breath moment for the Kings. If nothing else, the game showed that the Kings' world would not end, that if they continue to play smart and within their system, they'll have a chance to win.
``I think it was an important game for us,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said, ``with the fact that we have a couple of the key guys out of the lineup, that you come and play and check the right way. The system, the structure, you trust everyone out there.
``I didn't think anybody tried to do extraordinary things. That would have been the worst-case scenario, because now bad things are coming back at you. Everybody played, everybody did the right thing and you end up winning the game.''
If Lewis' last two games are any indication, the Kings might even be better than expected.
Before Saturday's game against Colorado, Lewis had played 64 games -- mostly in a fourth-line center role -- and totaled two goals and six assists. Now, in his last two games, Lewis has put up one goal and three assists in his new second-line role.
``He's been our hidden weapon all along,'' Murray said with a grin.
Playing between veterans Brown and Ryan Smyth, Lewis looked poised at both ends against the Oilers and showed glimpses of offensive skill rarely seen previously.
``I just come in with the same attitude,'' Lewis said, ``and a checking mindset, and some things come naturally when you're playing with a little more offensive guys. I've just got to keep going.''
On the Kings' first goal, 5:11 into the second period, Lewis made a sharp, on-the-button pass through the crease, and Brown needed only to tap the puck past Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. The second goal was even better, as Lewis forced a turnover behind the Oilers' net, then found Brown with a centering pass for a goal and a 2-0 lead.
A former first-round pick and a two-way way player, Lewis had contributed to the Kings' success this season, but most notably in a penalty-killing role. With Kopitar gone for the season, though, Michal Handzus moved up from the second line to the first line, and Lewis got the first shot at the second-line spot. He didn't let go of it, at least for one game.
``He played well tonight,'' Murray said. ``The line was good. I liked Brown a lot, obviously scoring two goals. Ryan Smyth played a heck of a game for us here tonight, back in Edmonton, his old team. And Lewis was really good. He made heads up-plays.
``It's what I needed to see, that's for sure, that he can step up and make some plays.''
Brown converted on both of Lewis' passes, giving him six goals in his last seven games.
``You need your captain to lead the way,'' Murray said. ``He set a good example on how to do it here tonight. He played hard, did a great job on the checking part of it and was in the right place to score goals.''
The Kings outshot the Oilers 33-32 and did a credible job in both ends. They didn't score a power-play goal but also didn't allow one, and played with poise throughout the game.
Almost lost in the first-game-without-Kopitar drama, Bernier played a near-flawless game and didn't face significant sustained pressure but made the big saves when needed and made some tough saves look easy with his composed play in net.
``His game is real good here, in the last half of the year, since the All-Star break,'' Murray said. ``I think his composure, his aggressiveness, he's already out on the shooter, so he doesn't have to overreact. He just looks so composed and compact and makes it, at times, look like a real fundamental play, when actually it's a hard save.''
The Oilers came closest to scoring late in the third period, when Teemu Hartikainen hit the post, but the Kings were able to clear the rebound out of danger.
The Oilers actually outshot the Kings 13-10 in the second period, but Bernier made Brown's two goals stand up. Bernier first got some support 5:11 into the second period.
Lewis picked up the puck behind the Edmonton net, cut to the front and spotted Brown parked near the right post. Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid went to his knees to try to cut off Lewis' pass, but it got through and Brown tapped the puck into the net to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. Ryan Smyth also picked up an assist.
``I just had my stick down and he hit it right on the button,'' Brown said. ``I didn't even see the puck coming until it was already there.''
Lewis and Brown connected connected again to give the Kings a 2-0 lead with 5:04 remaining in the second period. After Edmonton's Ryan O'Marra couldn't control the puck behind his net, Lewis picked it up and fed a centering pass to Brown, who scored from close range.
``I heard him [Brown] from behind,'' Lewis said, ``and then I just quickly looked up and he was right in the slot, ready for it. I just gave it to him and he made a great shot.''
Dustin Penner also left Edmonton with a win, just over one month after he was traded from the Oilers to the Kings.