Kings continue to feast on the East, beat Rangers

Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal for a 1-0 lead over the New York Rangers during the second period at the Staples Center on February 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Game 56: Kings 2, Rangers 1

The KIngs, fresh off a 5-game sweep on the road, return to the friendly confines of Staples Center to take on the New York Rangers. Friendly? More like frustrating.

When the Kings were last at Staples, they only won two games out of five, and have been winning at a 57 percent clip. The concern was they would return to form after their roadie and lack focus.

Well, that certainly wasn't the case Tuesday night. In front of a sellout crowd, the Kings came out with determination, shutting down the new-look Rangers, 2-1. It was their seventh win in a row, and allows them to shrug off any poor starts at Staples in the past.

I'm not a goalie guy, but I find myself saying that despite whoever earned the first star of the game from the media is, they're always wrong. The first star of Tuesday night's game was Anze Kopitar, who is on fire as of late, and had a short-handed goal in the second period to start the scoring.

But it was definitely Quick who was the no. 1 star of the game, if for no other reason than for his work late in the third against a manic Rangers attack that could've tied the game.

His point-blank stops on Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury locked up the victory for the Kings. Maybe it's because the Kings goaltenders for the past three years have been so bad that my attention is solely focused on Quick.

But he has responded this season with flying colors, which amazes me even more. I don't even want to think what's going to happen next season when Jonathon Bernier shows up to camp to press for the top spot in goal. I'll cross that bridge next season. For now, I am going to relish the fact that L.A. now has a legitimate goaltender and leave it at that. He has sole possession of third place for wins on the season, and has Rogie Vachon in his sights next.

Kopitar's short-hander was impressive, and he continues to evolve from a good player to an elite player. In an article written by Matt Reitz over at ViewFromMySeats.com, I was asked whether Kopitar could be considered elite now. My response? Absolutely.
“Kopitar might not have the flashy numbers of Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, but it’s his two-way play that sets him apart from others on the ice. He always had the potential, but when he was asked by Terry Murray last season to focus on playing back and improving the defensive aspect of his game, it was a huge adjustment, and his production slipped. I didn’t see Ovechkin or Crosby be asked to alter their game as much as Kopitar did last season.”
Kopitar's ascension to the throne has been exciting to watch as a hockey fan and as a journalist. So much, we see these cookie-cutter athletes from basketball, baseball and football come right out of college and high school, already polished and ready for consumption by the fans and the media. But in hockey, the players don't have the sheen of being mass-produced and trained in the media.

Kopitar was originally soft-spoken and unassuming when he cracked into the league. Fast forward to 2010, and he's settled into the role of leader on this team of young guns that's finally grown together as a cohesive unit.

Not to say Kopitar's the only player evolving. Dustin Brown has been rejuvenated with Ryan Smyth on his line. In the beginning of the season, I thought Kopitar would benefit the most with Smyth as a linemate. Now it's apparent, Smyth's solid game allows Brown to focus on his style of game. That speaks volumes of Smyth.

The Kings are now 13-3 against the Eastern Conference this season, tops in the league for out of conference play. The Ducks now come in on Thursday. The Ducks also have a new look from the major trades over the weekend, and will be playing the second of back-to-back games. Let's hope the Detroit Red Wings wear them down on Wednesday.

•  AP: Quick’s Kings stifle Rangers for 7th straight win
Anze Kopitar's slick short-handed goal was exactly what everybody expects from the Los Angeles Kings' leading scorer. His steady defence against Rangers star Marian Gaborik was a whole lot more surprising.
• LA Times: Kings avoid getting comfortable at home, extend win streak to seven
"We're excited to be home and wanted to respond for the fans and get them on our side but we just wanted to play simple and sometimes simple is the best way," said Smyth, whose quick wrist shot went over the glove of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "We just kept that road mentality, for sure."
• LA Kings: Seventh Heaven
Smart, simple hockey had propelled the Kings to a 5-0 road trip. Nothing flashy, nothing for the highlight reel, just fundamental hockey, making the little plays at correct times.
• NHL:  Kings outlast Rangers 2-1 for 7th consecutive win
The Kings are on their longest winning streak since early 1992, when Wayne Gretzky's Kings won a franchise-record eight straight. It was their first game back after 5-0-0 trip that ended with weekend wins at New Jersey and Boston.
• ESPNLosAngeles.com: Ice drama for Kings and Ducks
But here's the weird rub: No team in the NHL has accumulated more points on the road than the Kings, with 39. But they have only 30 points in the 25 games they've played at home so far this season.
They said it

 “I think Dewey and Scuds did a good job of shutting him down. They’re really turning into a great shutdown pair. It’s amazing, too, with a guy like Doughty. To be able to not only shut down the other’s teams forwards, and to get chances on your own, that’s exactly what you want." Matt Greene, on the defense limiting Gaborik’s chances
“We’re excited to be home and respond for the fans and get them on our side, but we just wanted to play simple. Sometimes that’s the best way. We just kept that road mentality, for sure.” Ryan Smyth, on bringing a “road mentality” to the game
“They know a lot of responsibility falls on their shoulders. Kopitar is back where he was. In fact, maybe even a little bit better than what he was at the start of the year. And Brownie is more relaxed. There was a stretch of time when he was carrying the team on his shoulders, trying to make things happen himself, getting big hits, trying to score the big goals, trying to do everything. It’s impossible to do. Just go out and play with a power-forward attitude, a power-forward game, keeping it simple, and good things are resulting from that.”  Terry Murray, on Brown and Kopitar’s recent strong play
The Los Angeles Kings celebrate a third period goal against the New York Rangers on February 2, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
Around the Kingdom

• The Royal Half: The Amazing 7
Now there have been a lot of changes to the Staples Center during it's 10 year anniversary. But it now seems like they are updating the giant signage off the back entrance to Staples. I'm really hoping that they change it to "Wayne Simmonds Center" or even maybe "Anze Arena."
• Jewels From the Crown: Fight to the end
Awesomely, Jonathan Quick earned his 32nd win of the season, which ties him with Martin Brodeur for most wins. Did you hear that correctly? Let me say it again. Tied with MARTIN BRODEUR. That's not something you can say everyday.
• LAKingsNews.com: Seven in a row! Kings defeat New York, 2-1
For anyone who was concerned about a first period hangover after the road trip, the game’s start put worry to rest. L.A. came out with an aggressive forecheck, effective cycling, little trouble entering the Rangers’ zone and sustained pressure. All we missed was, well, the net as we continued to send shots wide.
• HockeyBuzz's Matthew Barry: Kings Streak at 7 Straight with 2-1 Defeat of Rangers
When asked what’s been the difference in his game lately, Dustin Brown said, “I’m just trying to get back to how I was playing a year or two ago. Just trying to focus in on certain aspects of my game and I’ve seen improvements.”
• ViewFromMySeats: Is Anze Kopitar An Elite Player?
It’s not necessarily anything that fans will see in the box score. He’s learning to play with the proverbial target on his back. He’s learning what it’s like to play with added pressure from the media. He’s learning how to play with expectations. It’s a step that has broken so many players before him. But judging by his renewed production in January, it looks like he’s gone through the dark times and come out the other side. And he’s stronger for it.
From across the aisle, The New York viewpoint

• New York Daily News: Jokinen, Rangers' offense fails in 2-1 loss to the Kings
Last night, it was Gaborik's pass to nowhere from the right boards between Jokinen and Chris Drury at the points - John Tortorella gambled on sending out five forwards for the power play - that sprung a Kings 2-on-1 with Jokinen back. Anze Kopitar took it himself, beating Henrik Lundqvist up top on the catching-glove side with 3:17 left in the second, and Ryan Smyth waltzed through Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal to add some necessary third-period insurance.
• Blueshirt Banter: Perspective: Rangers clipped 2-1 by Kings
As for a quick recap of the game, I would say it was a wide-open game. The Refs stayed out of the way and let the two teams play. It was a back and forth game with both teams pressuring and creating chances, but in the end I would say the Kings capitalized.
• Scotty Hockey: My kingdom for a goal
Scotty Hockey Three Stars: 1-Quick - As Andrea said to me, USA would be better suited going with Quick right now instead of Tim Thomas. Of course, neither one will start over Ryan Miller but Quick is certainly making his case for it; the kid is good.
• Ranger Pundit: New look – old result
The power play went 0-3. In the last eight games it's 0-25. In the last fourteen games it's 3-48. It has only seven goals in the last eighty two chances. It gave up the first goal of the game, a short handed one, to Anze Kopitar on a very bad pass from Gaborik while the Rangers had five forwards on the ice. So nothing has changed there.
Peeping the dailies



<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-US&brand=foxsports&vid=527ef26a-5b49-4845-9582-f11adb51fd9e" target="_new" title="Kings in seventh heaven">Video: Kings in seventh heaven</a>
 

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