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Kings Refuse to Lose (In Regulation)

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The scoreboard at STAPLES Center. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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Along with Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues, the only other head coaching change of the seven in the NHL this season that has worked out is Darryl Sutter with the Kings. Along with the Kings’ 3-2 road shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, the Kings are now 8-1-5 since Sutter took over the reins on December 20.

The Kings on offense were reeling: slow to the puck, slow with the puck and an annoying habit of not shooting the puck anywhere towards the net. To top things off, the Kings’ power-play was wretched. They were fortunate to have a good blue line and two very good goalies that allowed them to steal a game or two during an awful November.

Even after Sutter took over, things weren’t looking that great. They still had troubles scoring, but little by little their changes in the offensive zone were apparent. Not only were they shooting the damned puck, they were a lot quicker. Instead of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty taking a couple of second to think about where they were going to make the pass from the points, they started making their passes quicker if not actually taking the shot.

The first game that really impressed me with the Kings happened on New Year’s Eve against the Canucks where they blew them out of the STAPLES Center 4-1. Granted the Canucks looked more ready to party in LA for New Years, and Roberto Luongo wasn’t that sharp in between the pipes.

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It looked more of the same in the first period Tuesday night with the exception of Luongo who single-handedly kept the Kings empty-handed in their many odd-man rushes. Of all the scoring chances it was Dustin Penner in front of the net deflecting a shot from Drew Doughty from the left point on a faceoff win to lead off the scoring, Penner’s first goal since Dec. 8 and third of the season.

The best power-play in the NHL struck in the second period with Daniel Sedin tying the game, but the Kings were undeterred with a power-play goal of their own late in the period by Justin Williams.

In the third period, the Kings took to chasing the puck around instead of dictating play which resulted in David Booth sticking a cross-crease pass from Jannik Hansen to tie the game. After an exciting overtime period that went end to end but scoreless, Mike Richards hit the winning goal in the third round of the shootout to send the Kings’ home with five points out of six in their road trip.

Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick made 31 saves while Luongo made 39.

It’s clear that the intensity Sutter brings has been absorbed by the team as evidenced by only one loss in regulation. Granted that one loss was against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it still shows that the Kings are doing everything within their abilities to play hard every single game. It is quite a turnaround to witness.

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As for the Clippers, their turnaround regressed Tuesday night. With Chris Paul out for another game with a bad hamstring in Salt Lake City, the Clips got pounded by the Jazz 108-79, their worst loss of the season.

TONIGHT’S ACTION
Dallas Mavericks at LA Clippers. 7:30 p.m. FSWest, ESPN, AM 980 KFWB.
Phoenix Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks. 7:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 830 KLAA.
UC Riverside Highlanders at Cal State Fullerton Titans. 7:05 p.m.