Kings of the World, Ma! L.A. on top of the West!

Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal to tie the score 2-2 against the Dallas Stars during the second period at the Staples Center on December 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) align=
Game 34: Kings 3, Stars 2 (shootout)

Utterly sublime.

The December to Dismember is going full-bore, mowing down teams at an alarming rate. The latest victims were the perennial Western Conference contenders Dallas Stars, and the result found the Kings loftily looking down at the rest of the Western Conference.

In the past, Dallas was a thorn in L.A.'s side. But in the last two seasons, the Kings have turned the tables on the Stars, going 7-1-1 since the start of last season. Add to that they have beaten the Stars six of the last eight times at Staples, so this game should've been a walkover, right?

Well, there's a reason they play the games. Before the game, The News Hound broke the news that Wayne Simmonds would be out for
an "undetermined period of time." No question, Simmonds is one of the emotional leaders of this club. His loss will be felt for the next four to six weeks, believe me.

The Stars struck first with just over a minute gone in the first period, and it looked to be that the Kings wild December ride would be derailed. But L.A. battled back as they have through the adversity this season, when Alexander Frolov potting his eighth goal of the season.

But no sooner could they catch their breath than Dallas struck again. Mike Modano put the Stars back up 2-1. This apparently lit a fire under the Kings, because they shut Dallas down after that, playing stifling defense and limiting them to only four shots in the period.

They took advantage of the Stars' fatigue of playing back-to-back games by unleashing the hounds, firing off 13 shots against goaltender Alex Auld. And with eight seconds left in the period the Slovenian Stunner, Anze Kopitar, tied it up with his team-leading 16th goal.

By the third period, both teams were gassed. Dallas was able to muster up seven shots, but Jonny (Don't Call Me Jonathon) Quick shut them down. And for the second time for both teams, they headed to the shootout. As a matter of fact, both teams set records for winning the shootout. (L.A. went eight round last game, the Stars went 11. Yikes.) But the Kings only needed four rounds to dispatch the Stars, continuing their dominance of Dallas.

Four in a row? For the second time this season? The Kings have continue to surprise everyone with their ascent to the top of the standings. But they are no secret now. Teams still have a hard time matching up with their three solid lines. And it's apparent just how deep they are when they can absorb the loss two of their top forwards, and just plug in a new piece. Frolov and Moller played on the line with Handzus, Purcell filled in on the top line with Kopitar and Williams. And the line of Richardson, Brown and Stoll continue to confound opponents.

Granted, this visit to the top of the West may be short lived. Yes, the upcoming road trip is going to be as hard as any this season. And even though they were able to handle the loss of Simmonds for one game, they will definitely miss him coming up. I would be happy if the Kings snatch one of the upcoming three games in Canada. Too bad I won't be able to see it... Stupid TV deal.

• AP: Kings tie for 1st in West with 3-2 shootout win
    The Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, have 45 points and are one behind Washington for the NHL’s best record. They are 7-0-1 in their last eight games and 21-10-3 overall. Last season, Los Angeles didn’t get its 21st victory until Feb. 3.
• LATimes.com's Helene Elliott: It's a first for the Kings
    The Kings improved to 11-1-3 in one-goal games and Quick to 7-1-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his last nine games -- and they're not satisfied.
• LAKings.com: Kings of the West
    After years of talk, talk about hope, about prospects, about thefuture, the Kings now have something tangible to point to in theirrebuilding process: the top of the standings.
• NHL.com:  Kings move into first-place tie
    "L.A.'s been playing pretty well lately," Ribeiro said. "We will take those points, but we knew that we could have more if we played 60 minutes."
They said it
    "This is when the games get real tough, when you’re going into buildings as the No. 1 team in the conference. Nobody is taking you lightly. Everybody is playing you hard and gearing up for games. Now it’s up to us to raise our game to meet theirs.” – Matt Greene, on what it means to be first in the division.
    "Good goaltending, tonight. That’s usually what it says. Whenever you’re not playing well as a team, you don’t have good cohesion in moving the puck and attacking." – Terry Murray, on winning without playing their best…
Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings makes the glove save against the Dallas Stars on December 12, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
Around the Kingdom

• The Royal Half: FIRST!!
    Sunday is an off day for the Kings and then it's time for the players to put on their toques and head up north to Canada... America's Largest National Forest... for 3 tough games in 4 nights against Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Let's see what this first place team is made of. Damn, it feels weird to say that.
• The Throne Room: Kings Outshine Stars, Sit Atop Western Conference
    Like a handful of the other games in recent memory, the Kings did not play their best hockey and still managed to win. This is a testament to the outstanding play of Jon Quick, who I think has been the Kings’ best overall player the last 4 games.
• Kings Kool-Aid: 45 Points in 34 Games…Is That Good?
     Those are the only two seasons that beat or equal the Kings’ current record of 21-10-3. Oh, and they’re officially first in the West and 2nd overall.
• LAKingsNews.com: Another game, another shootout, another victory
     There were times during the past two decades that this Kings fan wondered if we would ever have our own home grown star goaltender. Well, let me tell you boys and girls, we believed it at the end of last season, during the offseason and Quick is doing everything to make us believers this season – we may just have our star netminder in spades.
• Examiner.com's Jon Moncrief: Nine means 'first place' as 'Dr. Zus' does Dallas again
     Of course, the 'Kardiac Kings', as we're going to start calling them, never make anything easy, or aesthetically beautiful.  But hey, ugly victories have been all the rage for decades.
• LAKingsInsider: Looking ahead
     “It’s going to be hard. That’s going to be tough," said Terry Murray. "Those teams up there and playing well right now. We’re going to have to be even better than we were (against Dallas), and even against Phoenix. We know that Vancouver is a heavy team to start with, and we’re going to have to be bringing a smart game, a hard game.”
• HockeyBuzz's Matthew Barry: The Kings Are First in the Western Conference / Simmonds Surgery
    Not to depress any Kings fan, but I had surgery on my meniscus by the guys that did the Kings during the McNall era. Hasn't been the same since.
From across the aisle, the Dallas viewpoint

• Dallas Star-News: Stars get creative in 3-2 shootout loss to Kings
     "I knew about this game for about a week," goaltender Alex Auld said. "I felt good out there. These are games you want to be in. You want to be in good games that matter against good teams, and this team is probably playing as good as anybody in the league."
• Defending Big D: Stargazing: Stars lose to Kings in shootout
    It is a fascinating thing to look at the Western Conference standings. Some teams are as many as 34 games in to the season, and yet the group seems to creep forward at the same pace, with little separation from one end to the other. The Stars are stuck in the middle, seven points out of first place and seven points out of last place.
• Defending Big D: Stars Remain Winless Against Kings After Another Shootout Loss
    Remember how strange things always seem to happen against the Kings in Staples Center? Well, that 'curse' struck again Saturday night as the Stars lost yet another game in the shootout. With the Stars playing as good a road game as you could hope for in the second game of a back-to-back and enjoying a 2-1 lead, Anze Kopitar tied the game with seven seconds remaining in the second period.
• The Other Six Seconds: My Negativity
    I'm human, and thus hypocritical and biased. I am therefore unapologetic when I admit that my distaste for shootouts is magnified when we lose. Especially when the win is yanked from us at the last moment.
Message board meltdown

• HFBoards:  Game 32: @ Los Angeles, 12/12 
    piqued1457: 3 on 3 ... shouldn't they have comically oversized heads?
         Modo: I hate the fact that we're relying so much on loser points....it's ****ing embarrassing.
              Duck Soup: Turco is a mixed bag when it comes to Shootouts, he used to be consistently awesome all the time, now its just hit or miss.
• thestarsfans:  Game 32: @ Los Angeles, 12/12
    The Frugal Gourmet: That's bull *poo poo*. I'm sorry, when a goaltender scores on himself in the shoot out, that should be a goal.
     mookie1010: Something like this happens every year - a successful swing through southern CA with a game that stings.
     gravypan: Neither team deserved the extra point. And when you basically score on yourself as a goaltender, the goal should count.
• Defending Big D: Game Day Thread: Dallas Stars @ Los Angeles Kings
    Generic Brand: It’s by no means an excuse for the absolute horrendous play in the shootout which should have been addressed by now considering it’s been a problem since week one but it’s no longer on the players this is a preparation thing where the coaching staff is failing.
    CJD02:   Problem with that is everytime you think that they’re getting betterm they go out and lay an egg.
         Brandon Bibb: They laid an egg tonight? Um, O.K....
    schtimpy27  :B-Rad looked stunned by the fancy lights for a minute there. And that new helmet of his makes his head look ENORMOUS
Peeping the dailies





<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=foxsports&vid=c2b259bf-a955-4098-88ad-0e12ed69a7a6" target="_new" title="Kings give Stars royal treatment">Video: Kings give Stars royal treatment</a> BallHype: hype it up!
 

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