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Kings Shot Mentality Pays Off Against Sharks

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It’s amazing what a simple concept like shooting the puck towards the net can do for a team. The Kings finally got a victory against one of the upper echelon teams on the Western Conference with a 2-0 shutout win against the San Jose Sharks.

“We wanted to prove to ourselves that we belonged as an elite team,” Ethan Moreau said. “We have to start proving that in the standing. Tonight was a good start.”

It was an especially good start for Moreau who got his first goal as a King on a weird angle from below the left circle that flummoxed even Sharks’ goaltender Antti Niemi for the opening salvo midway through the first period. It was his first goal since Oct. 9, 2010 that was also against San Jose.

“It’s been a long time,” Moreau noted.

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Perhaps ironically Moreau’s fourth line was the only line untouched by the greasy hands of head coach Terry Murray. For anyone who has paid any amount of attention to the Kings in recent years, it might come as a surprise that Murray waited until the 24th game of the season to succumb to his penchant. But considering how stale the team had become offensively especially in their last two home games against the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, something had to give.

So there it was, Trent Hunter making his start on the first line alongside Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. The changes seemed to work with the Kings looking more energetic in the offensive zone. And that much-touted “shot mentality” that should be tattooed on every player in silver and black was actually heeded: the Kings had 16 shots on goal in the first period.

“There was a real good response to the game from Chicago the other night,” Murray said. “We needed to come out fast, we needed to come out with energy and set the tone, and I thought we did.”

It carried into the second period when something very familiar with Philadelphia Flyers’ fans - Simon Gagné dishing to Mike Richards for the score - was realized on the reunited second line on a four-on-four in the second period.

The game was not without controversy as an apparent Dustin Brown goal on a third attempt was disallowed by a kick of the puck by Slava Voynov. Although referee Jean Herbert told the crowd there was conclusive evidence that the puck was kicked into the net, Murray was apparently told otherwise.

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“The explanation then to me was that it was inconclusive by the video replay judge as to whether it was kicked or a stick,” Murray said which would have made it a goal since that was the call on the ice.

Almost buried amongst the rabble was goalie Jonathan Quick recording a shutout in his 200th NHL game with 33 saves.

“I didn’t even know it was my 200th game until Greenie [Matt Greene] let me know about five minutes before the game started,” Quick mused in his normal stoic state.

This was a very important game for the Kings. Inevitably in the playoffs the Kings will have to face a Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks or an equivalent team in the Western Conference if they are serious about getting to the Stanley Cup. While this singular win isn’t going to clinch the Cup here in late November, the fact they hadn’t beaten any of those teams to this point was concerning.

But what now? We’ve seen this Kings team respond to Murray’s line changes, have a couple of great games in the offensive zone where they shoot the puck like lasers to the net. Inevitably that fervor dies away and old habits creep back in.

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“Hopefully we can learn something from this as a group in the locker room,” Murray said. “I’ll post a bunch of stuff off of video, have a team meeting and reinforce it. There’s a time and a place where, as a team that’s starting to grow here, you’ve got to pick up on some of things that go on in the game that work for you.”

As Moreau commented, this game is a good start in proving to not only themselves but to the rest of the world that they belonged amongst the elite. But it’s only a start, and they need to remember that.

Louisville Cardinals defeat Long Beach State 49ers 79-66.

UCLA Bruins defeat Pepperdine Waves 62-39. Congratulations to the Bruins who, on their fifth chance, got their first victory over a Division I program this season. Lazeric Jones led the Bruins with 14 points and six steals while David Wear and Norman Powell both scored ten points apiece.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

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St. Louis Billikens at Loyola Marymount Lions. 7:00 p.m. 88.9 FM KXLU.

Minnesota Timberwolves at LA Lakers. 7:30 p.m.