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HELENE ELLIOTT

Ryan Smyth, Jonathan Bernier lead Kings to 4-1 win over Predators

Smyth plays his 1,000th NHL game, scoring a goal, and rookie Bernier nearly gets a shutout in his 11th career game.

November 06, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Left wing Ryan Smyth played his 1,000th NHL game Saturday. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier played his 11th. But the veteran and the rookie bridged their experience gap with noteworthy performances in the Kings' 4-1 victory over the surprisingly passive Nashville Predators at Staples Center.

Smyth scored a goal amid salutes from teammates -- who wore mullet wigs at the start of warmups in tribute to his trademark hairstyle -- and cheers from fans. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each had a goal and an assist and Justin Williams contributed two assists as the Kings extended their winning streak to a season-best four games and retained the best record in the NHL.

Jarret Stoll also scored for the Kings, who don't play again until they face the Dallas Stars on Thursday at Staples Center. They might wish they didn't have to wait so long: They're now 6-0-0 at home after ending a five-game home losing streak against the Predators, who weren't as pesky or persistent as they usually are.

"We're excited about it, but we can't get complacent. The moment you get complacent, that's when teams start to take advantage of you," Smyth said after the Kings tied a club record set in the 1980-81 season by earning their 10th victory in 13 games.

"We work hard. We're mentally prepared. We're really prepared with the game plan that the coaches set out for us."

Smyth seemed a little embarrassed by the attention -- and certainly laughed at the wigs, which teammates had surprised him with during the morning skate and brought out again Saturday night.

"It dated me a little bit, but it was awesome," said Smyth, who has four goals and nine points in his last 11 games. The line of Smyth, Stoll and Williams has 14 goals and 34 points in that span.

"The boys played well tonight," Smyth said. "We just kept going. Relentless. And Bernier played strong. It was great. All around we had a lot of depth tonight."

They needed that depth after losing defenseman Willie Mitchell in the second period to what's believed to be an arm injury.

The official word from the Kings was that is an upper-body injury but not a head injury, which was the immediate fear given Mitchell's history of concussions.

Bernier had a shutout going until defenseman Shane O'Brien beat him on a long slap shot from the left side with 2:24 to play in the third period. The last time he faced the Predators he shut them out, on March 30 at Nashville.

Told that he trailed Smyth on the games-played list by 989, Bernier laughed.

"That's a long way to go," he said.

"He was great tonight. The whole team, but especially that line, had a lot of jump tonight."

The Predators are usually scrappy and competitive, but they put up surprisingly little resistance in the first period as the Kings took a 2-0 lead.

Kopitar gave the Kings the lead at 4:11 on a well-executed goal off the rush. Dustin Brown sent Kopitar in on the left side, and he went wide on Cody Franson before letting loose a slap shot from about 35 feet out that sailed over Pekka Rinne's left arm.

Brown made it 2-0 at the 13-minute mark. Scott Parse began the play in the Kings' zone and made a cross-ice pass to Brown. Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien was with him and Brown's shot glanced off O'Brien's stick before eluding Rinne.

The Kings broke the game open in the second period and chased Rinne from the net. He was replaced by Anders Lindback after giving up the Kings' fourth goal, by Stoll.

Smyth extended the Kings' lead to 3-0 at 6:47 of the second period on a goal like so many others he has scored. Rob Scuderi took a shot that bounced around in front, and with Rinne by the left post Smyth fought for position and slipped a sweet backhander inside the right post for his fourth goal this season. Scuderi and Williams got the assists.

Stoll made it 4-0 at 10:47 when he went to his backhand to roof the rebound of a Jack Johnson shot, and the only mystery after that was whether Bernier would get the shutout. Although he didn't, it was still a memorable night for all involved.

"Wins is great," Smyth said, "but we've just got to play consistent."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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