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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings win battle of the best, beating Pittsburgh, 5-2

Los Angeles scores four in a thrilling third period to end the Penguins' seven-game road winning streak. They do little things right and turn them into big things.

November 06, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

As much as Kings Coach Terry Murray had insisted his team's game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday would not measure anything, it could become a pivotal moment in a season that is crystallizing into something very, very interesting.

The Cup isn't won in November, but the Kings' performance in rallying for four goals in the third period of a stunning 5-2 victory at Staples Center indicated they are not intimidated by anyone, even a team that knows what it takes to be the last team standing in June.

"They're the defending Stanley Cup champions, they were 7-0 on the road," Dustin Brown said. "But I think it's more about what we did than anything they did."

In ending the Penguins' seven-game road winning streak and extending their own success to 6-0-2, the Kings did little things right and turned them into big things.

Anze Kopitar, frustrated when he hit the post just over three minutes into the final period, won the faceoff that set up his tying goal at 6:17 of the third, his second goal of the game.

"We were doing some really good stuff in the second period and we even outshot them," Kopitar said. "It shows character, sticking with it."

The Kings also were opportunistic: After Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury tried to bang the puck off the boards and clear it out of the zone, Brown stepped in to intercept it and feed Jarret Stoll for a shot from the right circle that gave the Kings a 3-2 lead at 12:09.

They didn't sit back or stop pressing: Michal Handzus simply outbattled defenseman Brooks Orpik to jab home a puck that had been pinballing in the slot after Alexander Frolov had thrown a pass in front, making it 4-2 at 12:32.

Brown finished off the scoring at 17:30, drawing roars from an announced sellout crowd of 18,118.

"Their goalie was good throughout the first two periods. We just kept pouring it on," Kopitar said. "We were hoping more than knew he was going to fold."

Neither team showed any hint of folding early.

The air of anticipation that hung in the air before the game was enhanced when Murray and Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma allowed their No. 1 lines to face each other and battle it out.

The best played against the best, and it was a treat to watch Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin try to outdo the Kings' trio of Ryan Smyth, Kopitar and Justin Williams.

The Kings scored before many fans had found their seats.

Kopitar scored it, taking a pass in the neutral zone from a pivoting Williams and slipping behind the Penguins' defense. Kopitar moved in on Fleury and slipped a backhander into the net 27 seconds into the game.

That lead didn't last long. Chris Conner, given too much room as he skated up the left wing, slid a pass back to Jordan Staal for a 55-foot slap shot that eluded Jonathan Quick at 1:10.

The pace slowed only slightly in the second period, in which the Penguins scored the only goal and took a 2-1 lead.

Orpik, a left-handed shooter skating up the right wing, managed to push the puck behind Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi and get it to Guerin. The veteran winger slid it back to Orpik, whose shot from the top of the circle was redirected by Chris Kunitz just enough to elude Quick at 10:51.

The Penguins nearly scored later in the period when Guerin hit the post with about 90 seconds left. Still, the Kings were in the position of needing a third-period comeback, and they got it.

"I thought in the third period we finally got all of our people on board and everyone was doing the right stuff," Murray said.

He still wasn't ready to call this a measuring-stick game. He cited the Penguins' injuries -- Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin and Maxime Talbot were all out of the lineup -- and it's true that the Penguins weren't at full strength. But they weren't at full strength in winning their previous seven road games, either.

"We didn't play great and sometimes you get away with that," Crosby said. "It's a good lesson for us."

It took an inspired effort by the Kings to take them down, a tantalizing hint of what the Kings might finally be capable of accomplishing.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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