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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings enjoy a feast with the Ducks as the main course

Picking up where they left off at the Christmas break, the Kings look strong in a 4-1 victory. L.A. has won four of five, while Anaheim has lost four of five.

December 26, 2010|Helene Elliott

The Kings on Sunday picked up where they had left off before the Christmas break. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they did the same.

A solid performance by goaltender Jonathan Bernier, balanced scoring and a defensive effort that silenced the Ducks' big guns added up to a 4-1 victory for the Kings, their fourth triumph in five games and the Ducks' fourth loss in five.

Playing in front of an announced standing-room-only crowd of 18,313 at Staples Center, Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist, Anze Kopitar scored midway through the second period to swing the momentum after the Ducks had pressured Bernier, and Marco Sturm recorded his first point as a King by getting his stick on a rebound that was converted by Kopitar.

"I think we just scored the right time tonight," Bernier said after making 18 saves and winning for the fourth time in nine starts.

"Our big guys, they played well. Everyone played well, but when those guys play good I think everyone just kind of feeds off those guys."

It gave the Kings (21-12-1) a good launch to a tough stretch. They'll finish a back-to-back sequence Monday at San Jose and will play four games in five nights, but they feel ready — and certain the problems behind their 1-7 November slump have vanished.

The evidence they presented Sunday was persuasive. Although they gave up a goal 32 seconds after they opened the scoring — all the goals came during the second period — they didn't fold. They withstood a test from veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne and went ahead on Kopitar's goal off a counterattack at 9:10.

From there they gathered strength. Justin Williams took the puck out of the fumbling feet of Joffrey Lupul in the Ducks' zone to make it 3-1 at 12:55 and Brown converted a rebound during a power play at 17:57 to chase Jonas Hiller, who had shut out the Kings on Nov. 29. The Kings also killed two minor penalties and have killed 52 of 55 at home, a key factor behind their 13-2-1 home record. That matched the club best after 16 games, set in 1992-93.

"I think over our past 10 games we've been playing pretty well," said Wayne Simmonds, who scored 15 seconds into the middle period after Michal Handzus' shot deflected off Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and to Simmonds by the left post.

"After our little slide, we had a little meeting and we talked about it. You can't do things like that. We have another one of those we're out of the playoffs, and I think it's crucial now to get every two points we can."

After Ducks winger Matt Beleskey tied it at 1-1 by deflecting a shot by Toni Lydman, the Kings took control on Kopitar's goal and Williams' rising shot, the 14th goal for each player.

"We lost the momentum and got away from the things that were giving us success in the first," Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton said. "Some turnovers and stuff. And they just sort of took over the momentum of the game. It seemed like in the second period they were pretty committed to coming out and getting the pucks behind us and going to work, and we didn't make the right plays."

That's an all-too common occurrence for the Ducks. "We didn't execute anywhere near our abilities, and it seems like we couldn't get anything going," Coach Randy Carlyle said.

The Kings, by contrast, are going well. Even Bernier, who was getting in trouble by leaving juicy rebounds and sitting back in the net, has become more aggressive and sure. Jonathan Quick has earned the majority of playing time, but Bernier will return during this busy stretch.

The Kings moved three points ahead of the Ducks (18-17-4) with five games in hand, but they know things can change quickly in the congested West.

"You lose a game you're in 12th place. You win a game you're back in fifth," Simmonds said after his fourth goal and seventh point in his last seven games. "You never know what's going to happen, so every game is a game you have to win to separate yourselves from the other teams."

And because they did, the Kings and Ducks continued to go their separate ways.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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