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Kings End 2011 Winning

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This was definitely worth staying sober on New Year’s Eve for the first time since I was 16 years old. I was only loaded on coffee, and the only white piles near me were the ice shavings at STAPLES Center. And for the first time this season, the Kings were the team that I envisioned them to be before the season started in their 4-1 beatdown of the Vancouver Canucks under the weighty gaze of Gene Simmons.

“It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve been having some success over the last little bit with Darryl [Sutter] coming in,” defenseman Matt Greene said.

The Kings really only had one hiccup in the game, and even then it took an amazing backhanded pass by Daniel Sedin to Kevin Bieksa for the Canucks to get the puck past Jonathan Quick who recorded 27 saves. Aside from that first shot of the game, the game belonged to the Kings. Brad Richardson exemplified the effort by the Kings getting putting back his own rebound in front of the crease stuffing the puck past Roberto Luongo before the halfway point of the period to tie the game.

“We’ve been having success just rolling four lines,” Greene commented. “We got a big goal out of our third line tonight. That’s what it takes sometimes.”

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The climax of the game came after Matt Greene scored his second goal of the season with a one-time shot from the right point after a hard fought shift by the Kings for the 2-1 lead. There were some words and fists exchanged which sent Keith Ballard of the Canucks and Brad Richardson of the Kings to the box for roughing - a four-on-four situation. As the puck got into the Kings’ zone, Mike Richards knocked Ryan Kesler with a high-stick and charged a four-minute double-minor. Against the top-ranked power-play in the NHL, for 1:21 the Kings killed off a four-on-three power-play and 3:39 a normal five-on-four power-play holding the Canucks to only four shots on goal during the power-play.

“Quickie has been great for us,” Greene said. “That was huge especially after losing [Richards] on that one too. He’s obviously a big part of our penalty kill, and to get the kill was big for us.”

It actually seemed to fuel the Kings as they got a quick three-on-two right away with Anze Kopitar capitalizing on a pass by Justin Williams with Luongo out of position.

“It’s huge,” Kopitar said about his first goal since Nov. 22. “It always feels good when you get it off of your back. No better place and time, I guess, to do it than Vancouver, too.”

But that didn’t stop the Kings. After the ensuing faceoff they had another great shift with a couple of great scoring chances. The onslaught was so vicious the Canucks had to ice the puck with the sold out crowd giving the Kings a standing ovation.

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Justin Williams essentially ended the game with a power-play goal (yes, an actual power-play goal) midway through the third period when it seemed like the Kings were playing prevent defense.

The fun of the game was seeing the fights. Kyle Clifford vs. Kevin Bieksa. Alexandre Burrows vs. the fingers of every Kings’ player. At times it seemed as if Quick would join in the festivities.

Before the Kings went into the shitter in November I mentioned that if the Kings wanted any sort of credibility as a team that could do damage in the playoffs, they needed to beat the upper echelon teams in the Western Conference: Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks. Well they have now gotten a win against Vancouver, although to be quite honest Vancouver didn’t play very well.

“We weren’t good enough,” Henrik Sedin said.

However a win is a win is a win, and heading into 2012 the Kings are in first place in the Pacific Division. Also the Kings continued the trend of getting at least a point since Sutter took the reins going 4-0-2.

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Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the Anaheim Ducks as they continued to struggle under Bruce Boudreau with a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Since taking over on Dec. 1, the Ducks have gone 3-8-2 and fallen further into the NHL basement with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And earlier in the day at STAPLES Center, the Lakers eked out a 92-89 win over the Denver Nuggets. Andrew Bynum led all scorers with 29 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back from a four-game suspension. The play of the game came when Danilo Gallinari missed a wide open layup to tie the game with the Nuggets trailing 91-89 in the closing seconds of the game.

Also in the most irrelevant bowl game ever, UCLA lost to Illinois 20-14 in the… whatever. The scotch has hit me now.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

LA Lakers at Denver Nuggets. 5:00 p.m. KCAL9, AM 710 KSPN.
Portland Trail Blazers at LA Clippers. 6:30 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 980 KFWB.

NFL Schedule

10:00 a.m.
New York Jet at Miami Dolphins. CBS, AM 710 KSPN.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints. Fox.

1:00 p.m.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders. CBS, AM 570 KLAC (Chargers Radio), AM 830 KLAA (Raiders Radio).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons. Fox.

5:30 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants. CBS, AM 570 KLAC.