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Short-handed goals have been huge for Kings

Anze Kopitar's highlight-film score gave the Kings a 2-0 lead against the Blues on their way to a 2-0 series edge. Game 3 is Thursday.

May 01, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

Anze Kopitar summed up the incredible dagger of a short-handed goal almost casually — say, one step removed from nonchalant.

"It worked out pretty well," Kopitar said Tuesday.

This wasn't a garden-variety goal scored by the Kings center in November. It was the goal rattling the psyche of the Blues in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series Monday in St. Louis. These are the sort of opponent-deflating goals that can define a series.

The score came with 5:44 left in the opening period to give the Kings a 2-0 lead on their way to a 5-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead against the Blues. Game 3 is Thursday in Los Angeles, and the Blues have rallied from a 2-0 playoff deficit only once in franchise history, in 1972 against the Minnesota North Stars.

More history: Teams that have trailed by 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have rallied to win the series only 12.7% of the time.

Back to Kopitar and his penalty-killing running mate, Dustin Brown.

Brown's pressure caused Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo into a turnover, his pass hitting the shaft of Brown's stick. Brown collected the puck and hit a wide-open Kopitar with a centering pass. Kopitar stayed patient and used his reach to go around Blues goalie Brian Elliott.

At least that's the short-hand version of the short-hander.

"Actually as soon as Brownie got the puck I had a couple of thoughts going through my mind," Kopitar said. "I thought I was going to one-time it, at first, because it was a pretty good pass, in the right spot.

"I just decided to … didn't shoot and it worked out pretty well."

The Kings have scored four short-handed goals in seven playoff games this spring. That stands out even more considering they scored nine in 82 regular-season games, led by Mike Richards with four and Kopitar with two.

In the playoffs, Brown has played a part in all four short-handed goals, scoring twice against the Vancouver Canucks and assisting on Matt Greene's goal in Game 1 against the Blues and Kopitar's highlight effort in Game 2.

In 2008, the Detroit Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg had five short-handed points and no one has had four since, until Brown unleashed his postseason talents.

"Other than goaltending, it's probably been the strongest area of our game all year," Brown said after Game 1. "It helps when you have pairs that PK together. Me and Kopi have PK'd together for four, five years."

Said Kopitar: "We've been aggressive all season. And right now obviously it's been paying off really well. We've gotta continue to do that and just go from there."

The Kings were not on the ice at their El Segundo practice facility Tuesday, no doubt many treating bumps and bruises from Monday's especially chippy encounter that included scrums after each whistle.

"They were down last night, and the frustration part kicks in a little bit," Kopitar said. "That's just how it is. You've got to play whistle to whistle and what happens after you want to stay away from it as much as you can."

St. Louis did not practice either. Goalie Jaroslav Halak, who suffered an ankle injury in the first round against San Jose, has been ruled out for the Kings' series, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who missed Monday's game, remains questionable.

Welcome back, Carter

Kings winger Jeff Carter admitted that scoring his first goal of the playoffs was a "bit of a relief," and said his injured ankle continues to improve each day. His goal was the third of a four-goal first period by the Kings.

The line of Dustin Penner-Richards-Carter combined for five points in Game 2. Penner had two assists and Carter was impressed by his physical presence.

"I was actually surprised. I didn't really realize he could move as good as he can," Carter said. "He's got some wheels for such a big guy. He gets going and he's pretty deadly going down that wing."

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