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Kings Win Ugly Against Panthers

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It wasn’t pretty, but the Kings will take their 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers breaking their four-game losing streak and seven losses in their last eight games.

“We got tired of losing,” left winger Kyle Clifford said after scoring his first NHL point on the game-tying goal by Peter Harrold in the third period.

Despite that mindset, fans could have been easily fooled in the first period as passes were missing their intended targets, shots were blocked by the Panthers defense and loose pucks were being lost. And the Kings 25th ranked home power-play team looked particularly awful as they got an early chance 3:16 in the first period and managed only one shot while giving up a shot to the Panthers.

The Kings finally got it together on one shift when on a breakaway that was denied Justin Williams passed the puck from the right boards behind the net to Jarret Stoll who knuckled the puck into the net at 10:24. The Panthers aided with some lucky bounces and the lack of Kings defenders on the weak side of the play tied the game with Michal Repik’s first goal of the season some three minutes later.

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“I thought we were a little tentative in the first period,” head coach Terry Murray said. “We just weren’t doing the right thing getting caught in between. We came back out in the second and got our feet going.”

Whatever was said in the locker room during that first intermission must have lit something under the Kings players as they started to look as crisp as they have in a month on offense. They have many scoring chances that just fell short and had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Most notable was Justin Williams on a breakaway with a straight shot to the net hindered by a Panthers defender tugging him down with the referees seemingly oblivious.

But all of that good will seemed to evaporate when Jack Johnson overskated a loose puck deep in the Kings zone which allowed Steve Reinprecht to pass the puck to David Booth at the right circle for the go-ahead goal at 15:51 in the period.

But the Kings put their head down and early in the third period Brad Richardson passed the puck to Clifford who streaked in front of the crease and through traffic got the puck to Harrold at the top of the slot for the one-timer past goalie Tomas Vokoun.

“[The puck] popped out to Harry, good screen by everybody,” Clifford said. “I’m just glad we were able to get it through and get our team going.”

Finally the first line got in on the action when after losing the faceoff in the Panthers zone Dustin Brown made a shot from the top of the right circle. The rebound came right into the lap of Anze Kopitar in front of the paint who made sure Vokoun would not save the second shot.

“I saw the defense was going to try and clear it in the corner, and I just whacked it and fortunately for me it went in,” Kopitar said.

“The best players came through in the end,” Murray beamed. “It was great to see the winning goal, seeing Kopitar finish it off.”

While Murray was relieved that the Kings finally got the two points, he is still a bit concerned about the team playing 60 minutes.

“The work has been there - you wanted that for sixty minutes. It might not have been there over the last few games and not even tonight. But at the key time we did a good job. We have to build on it.”

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Kansas Jayhawks defeat UCLA Bruins 77-76.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

LA Lakers (13-6) at Sacramento Kings (4-12). 7:30 p.m. FSWest, AM 710 KSPN.

LA Clippers (4-15) at Denver Nuggets (11-6). 6:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 980 KFWB.

Detroit Red Wings (34 pts., 16-4-2) at Anaheim Ducks (29 pts., 13-11-3). 7:00 p.m. KDOC, AM 830 KLAA.