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Hats Off To Jeff Carter

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The Kings went 6-1 losing only to the mighty Chicago Blackhawks on the road while I was on vacation. Their first game when I got back was an ugly road loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Maybe it's me?

Well it wasn't. Jeff Carter's natural hat trick erased me off of the scape goat list in the Kings 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators.

We knew tonight's matchup with the Predators would not be pretty. The only team to score fewer goals than the Kings this season? Reward yourself with a cookie if you answered the Predators.

Early on the game was everything that was envisioned. The Kings not only did not get their first shot on goal until 4:30 left in the first period, they recorded a season-low three shots on goal in that first period. What's more they were very sloppy in their own zone giving Nashville multiple point-blank chances down the crease. It was a small miracle the period was scoreless.

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Just don't tell head coach Darryl Sutter that the Kings got off to a slow start. "We did exactly what we wanted to do," he said. "They're a tough team to play against."

One person who disagreed with Sutter's assessment was Jeff Carter. "I don't think we started the game particularly well," he said. Coming into the game with a team-high 11 goals and having scored eight goals in the last ten games, it seemed Carter took the entire offensive burden on his shoulders.

Carter emerged during a power play in the second period beating out Kevin Klein and Scott Hannan to the puck as it was bouncing around in the left circle. A shake and a bake later, Carter slid it under Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne's right pad for his team-leading 12th goal of the season giving the Kings the 1-0 lead.

Despite that, the Kings had another three shot-on-goal period in the second period which ended with the Predators assaulting Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. But everything changed in the third period. It was like too much pressure had built up in grandfather's enema bag and it exploded all over the nursing room floor.

Carter's second goal came as Colin Fraser was going down the ice and lunged the cross-ice pass to Carter coming in on the left wing.

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Just 19 seconds later, Carter picked the pocket of Roman Josi, beat Shea Weber and went five-hole under Rinne for the natural hat trick ushering in the rain of hats down to the ice.

"It was a good guess on which way [Josi] was going," Carter said. "It was another lucky one because Weber got my arm there before I shot it."

It should be noted that it was a hat giveaway game. How's that for convenience?

It was Carter's fifth hat trick of the season, his first since his last game with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 12, 2012.

"It's nice, it's always fun," Carter said trying to deflect the attention away from himself. "It's some big goals for the team to give us a little bit of a cushion there."

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Mike Richards added a power play goal and Dwight King knocked Rinne out of the game later in the third period. The four goals in the third were the most this period.

Gabriel Borque saved some face to score for Nashville late in the third to avert the shutout.

"We had a little more speed to our game," Carter said about the stark difference between the third period and the rest of the game. "We were getting pucks in their end and playing physical. It was opening up holes for us."

If only they played the first period like they did the third period.

The third period could be seen as a turning point for the Kings who have struggled against the Predators this season. They have only mustered one goal, a power play goal, in two losses to the Preds. So was this offensive explosion an epiphany?

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"I hope so," Carter smiled. "It's been a little bit of an up-and-down rollercoaster here. It felt good to get a few goals there."

Also coming up big was Bernier who with 18 saves notched his fifth consecutive win giving up five goals in that span. "Every time Sutter puts me in, I've just got to do my job. I'm lucky the guys have been playing really well in front of me."

The Kings have now six of their last seven games and eight of their last ten. They face the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night, the Dallas Stars on Thursday and the Calgary Flames on Saturday and Monday nights. They'll need to continue what they did in the third period and be strong on the forecheck. That was the formula that won them the Cup last season.

Another remarkable note from tonight: the Kings scored five goals on only 16 shots on goal. Quality over quantity as it were.

Now for something that is neither quality nor quantity. People wanted ESPN to cover more hockey. Well, this is what you get:

Yup, that's Stephen A. Smith ranting discrediting the Chicago Blackhawks achievement since they have three ties this season.

Not happy enough with butchering this, SportsCenter took it a step further bringing hockey down the scum-infested waters of their fake debate paradigm without having to bother the high and mighty Skip Bayliss into talking about the sport: bring in Barry Melrose!

Tony Kornheiser on Pardon the Interruption would also rant about ties in hockey later in the afternoon on the network.

So you guys still want ESPN to cover hockey?