Kings take a run at the Wild, finish 2009 with a bang

Los Angeles Kings' Alexander Frolov, center, of Russia, is congratulated by teammate Sean O'Donnell, left, and Michal Handzus, right, of Slovakia, after Frolov scored his second goal of the game against the Minnesota Wild in the third period of an NHL hockey game won by the Kings 5-2 in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009. (AP Photo/Andy King)Game 41: Kings 5, Wild 2

The Kings came into this game, absolutely reeling. On the wrong end of a four-game losing streak, the path to the playoffs isn't getting any easier, with games against Washington, San Jose and Detroit coming up.

But the frustrated Kings bounced back with an impressive start, peppering Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom with 14 shots in the first period. Three of those shots found the back of the net, as Brad Richardson, Ryan Smyth and Alexander Frolov powered the well-balanced Kings scoring machine.

Ryan Smyth's power play goal was especially sweet, as it was his first goal since returning from the dreaded "upper-body" injury. And his excitement was infectious, as the team was playing a lot looser.

One thing that was not loose was their penalty-kill. Since their PK dropped to the absolute bottom of the league, the Kings have made a solid effort to improve killing penalties, and they have risen to 20th. On Thursday, they stopped all four Minnesota power plays.

The most productive line in my opinion was the Scott Parse/Wayne Simmonds/Brad Richardson line. It seems teams have no idea how to handle this line, and this was the case again tonight.

Smyth and Kopitar were joined on the top line by Dustin Brown, who is expected to be named to the U.S. Olympic hockey team on Friday. Segal joined Frolov and Handzus, and Moller centered a line of Raitis (Bullet-Tooth) Ivanans and Peter Harrold.

The Kings finish the December to Dismember on the plus side, with quality wins over Ottawa, San Jose, Dallas and Edmonton. IN the upcoming month, the Kings will have a decent 7-game homestand. With games against Boston, Buffalo and San Jose, L.A. is going to get a reality check of just how far they have come since their ascension to the top of the Western Conference.

• AP: Kings snap 4-game skid with 5-2 win over Wild
    Smyth held nothing back in celebrating his goal, his first since Nov. 11. The winger missed 15 games because of an upper body injury. The energy and excitement Smyth displayed during his celebration was similar to the attitude of the entire Kings team in the first period.
• Kings show character in victory
    With every reason to surrender, including a long, late trip after a draining loss at Calgary, the Kings instead found motivation for an impressive performance that brought them to the halfway point of the season with a 23-15-3 record and in playoff position in the tight Western Conference.
• A happy new year
    They didn’t arrive at their St. Paul hotel until approximately 3:20 a.m., but just about 17 hours later, they came out with one of their best periods of the season and blitzed a Wild team that might have been expecting a tired opponent.
• Johnny be nimble, Johnny be quick
    Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of the Kings knows goaltending -- or lack thereof -- has been a major issue for the franchise. There have been 62 goaltenders in the Kings' 41 seasons, and you can count on one hand the number who truly have been impact players.
They said it
    “That’s a character win. That’s digging in and playing with the right kind of an attitude to get back in the win column. Just building off the momentum of the last couple games." – Terry Murray, on winning after the past few losses.
    “I was pretty excited. Obviously when you miss a chunk of games, you want to feel like you’re contributing and being a part. When I scored, it was pretty exciting." – Ryan Smyth, on scoring his first goal after coming back from injury.
Around the Kingdom

• The Royal Half: Farewell, Decade of Futility
    There was scoring from all three lines, excellent goaltending and pretty much the Kings controlled the game from the opening faceoff. The Kings end the first half of their season in 8th place in the Western Conference, a mere 2 weeks after being #1 in the West. It's going to be a dogfight from here on out... but on this first day of a new year and a new decade (kinda)... it's looking pretty good to be a Kings fan.
• HockeyBuzz's Matthew Barry: Kings Kiss Decade Goodbye With 5-2 Win Over Wild
    With Teddy Purcell a healthy scratch after the past two games on the top line, Murray moved Dustin Brown to play with Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar. That must have put a wrench in Minnesota’s defensive schemes as they forgot the hot line combo of Wayne Simmonds, Scott Parse and Brad Richardson.
• Kings go wild in Minnesota
    The first three goals were classic Ryan Smyth goals…except the first one was scored by Brad Richardson parked in front of the net and whacking at the puck and the second by Frolov who just would not give up on the play. His first shot was poked away, his second one was blocked and the third was buried.  Smyth scored the third goal of the game on the powerplay as he tipped in a Drew Doughty shot.
Across the aisle, the Minnesota viewpoint

• Star-Tribune: Spry visitors leave Wild floundering
    The Kings looked like a team amped up on power bars and espresso, and the Wild looked like it had played the night before in Siberia.
• Hockey Wilderness: Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings: Game Recap
    With a blue moon on New Year's Eve, the Wild found themselves on the wrong end of a team looking for revenge. The Kings came out with both barrels tonight, and after the first period, they were down 3-0 and outshot 14-6. The Kings found the mismatch they liked and exploited it all night.
• Deuce By Definiton: LA, New Year's Eve. OUT OF GAS
    The Wild had NO pep in their step. NONE. LA skated, passed, and danced around us like we were pylons last night.
Peeping the dailies


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