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Kings beat Oilers to end nightmarish homestand

L.A. had lost six of the first seven games of its longest homestand of the season before beating Edmonton, 5-2, in the finale.

January 15, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Kings center Jarret Stoll scores a goal against the Oilers and goaltender Devan Dubnyk in the second period Saturday at Staples Center.
Kings center Jarret Stoll scores a goal against the Oilers and goaltender… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire )

Stanley Cup dreams aren't realized in November. The Kings are scuffling, trying to prevent them from being crushed in January.

The shine from a 12-3 start to the season has dulled considerably; with the Kings gathering only 23 points since those first 15 games — the fewest among Western Conference teams.

The struggles resulted in a homestand the Kings couldn't stand. They had lost six of seven games before gaining a little traction with 5-2 victory over Edmonton at Staples Center on Saturday.

"We seem to play better when we're desperate," Anze Kopitar said.

The Kings were opportunistic.

Dustin Brown, just out of the penalty box, fed a streaking Jarret Stoll, who broke a 2-2 tie in the second period. Drew Doughty made Edmonton pay for a neutral-zone turnover, scoring on a wrist shot for a 4-2 lead three minutes into the third period.

It made for the type of palate-cleansing evening the Kings desperately needed. That it came against the Western Conference's last-place team mattered little.

"This homestand certainly didn't go the way we wanted," said Kopitar, whose first-period goal ended a nine-game goal-less streak.

"I guess we'll have to do it on the road."

The journey gets a little grittier, with the Kings playing 13 of the next 16 on the road starting Monday against Pacific Division-leading Dallas.

Only the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils have collected fewer points on the road than the Kings this season.

The Oilers, who have lost 11 of the last 14 games, are the type of team the Kings could, and should, fatten up on as they draft behind teams currently holding playoff spots.

January is traditionally the time when playoff contenders separate themselves from the fodder. The free fall since returning home dropped the Kings from fourth in the conference to 10th before Saturday.

"This is critical time as you get to the All-Star game," Coach Terry Murray said.

"Now we get into the real hockey game in the second half of the year." But, he added, "the second half, to me, is starting a little bit sooner than usual."

Murray held a team meeting Friday, "where the message was 'is the puck management there,'" he said. "We end up turning the puck over far too many times and invite the other team to counter-attack."

From Murray's lips to the Oilers' play, as a neutral-zone turnover ended with Edmonton's Dustin Penner sliding past the goal line and flipping a shot over goalie Jonathan Bernier's shoulder lacrosse-style for a 1-0 lead six minutes into the game.

It proved to be a momentary backslide. Bernier did not allow a goal after the first period and stopped 24 of 26 shots.

About the only downside for the Kings was losing forward Wayne Simmonds, who suffered a leg injury in the second period.

"You have to break out of a funk as soon as you can," Kopitar said. "The further you go along, the tougher it gets."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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