|Kings capitalize on Devils' struggles|
|Written by Andrew Knoll|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:02|
With a 4-0 win on Monday, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves within one win of tying the Edmonton Oilers for the best record for a team in a four-round format. More importantly, they also find themselves within one win of hoisting the Stanley Cup.LOS ANGELES – Last year, one rival team’s columnist compared the atmosphere at Staples Center to a Kenny G concert.
This year, the roaring crowd in Los Angeles might cause a natural disaster.
“If we win one more game, I hope the San Andreas Fault can take it,” Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Penner said.
The Kings triumphed 4-0 over the New Jersey Devils before a record crowd at Staples Center to put a stranglehold on the series with a 3-0 advantage.
If they complete the sweep, they would tie the best record for a team in a four-round format at 16-2 set by the Edmonton Oilers in 1988. They would also be the first undefeated road team in that format.
“That's just icing on the cake. I'll concentrate on the cake,” Penner said
New Jersey may now be closer to circling the drain than circling the wagons, as it sits in a deep hole with slippery sides.
“We’re not going to quit until someone’s won a fourth game, so we start over,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “We’ve got to win four straight. That’s it. That’s our approach, win the next one, and that’s all we can do.”
The Kings had more of the usual and a bit of the extraordinary in their winning effort.
They got a 22-save shutout from Jonathan Quick and a 6-for-6 performance on the penalty kill.
That included a first-period kill of a 5-on-3 and a double minor. The iron three of Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Mitchell turned in a performance that was at once spectacular and selfless.
The Kings also scored twice on the power play. Third-period markers with the extra man by Justin Williams and Jeff Carter pulled them out of the statistical cellar with the extra man.
“Our power play hasn’t been dynamic. We’ve had a lot of our success at even strength,” Mitchell said. “They were huge goals under the circumstance, gave us a little cushion.”
Alec Martinez scored his first career playoff goal to open the scoring. He became the 17th different King to score in these playoffs.
Anze Kopitar scored the second goal that gave the Kings some separation. He and Williams each had a goal and an assist.
Kopitar also imposed his will physically, protecting the puck offensively and throwing his body at the Devils on defense.
“He’s so good defensively, he makes players around him better, he’s big and strong, it’s tough to get him off the puck,” Mitchell said. “He’s our most important player on the power play, he’s one of our most important players on the penalty kill and he’s our most important centerman. Need I say more?”
The Devils struggled in front of the net.
They were seldom able to clear rebounds, which Martin Brodeur seemed to give up a bit more easily than usual Monday.
Two of the Kings' four tallies came off rebounds with the other two coming on players getting near the crease unmolested.
In three games, the Devils’ “big three” of Parise, leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk and veteran leader Patrik Elias have just one point.
Coach Peter DeBoer insisted his top guns were not struggling.
“That's a credit to them," DeBoer said. "It's not that our guys aren't trying or not doing enough. They're shutting the door. We've got to find a way."
The Kings even provided a feel-good side to their dominance as veteran winger and former all-star Simon Gagne returned from his third concussion in five years. In his first game since Dec. 26, Gagne logged a tempered 6:39 of ice time but managed three shots on goal as he had two sharp shifts early in the second period.
“For me, playing or not playing, after 12 years in the league and knowing it’s hard to win, all the injuries I went through, I don’t know if I am going to have another chance,” Gagne said. “I’m glad I played tonight but for me it’s all about the team and winning.
“We’re not there yet, we still have one game to go and that’s the biggest one.”
Photos by Getty Images