If the Los Angeles Kings are going to get back to the playoffs this season, their special teams are going to have to carry them there.
The Kings killed off a two-man advantage the San Jose Sharks had for a minute and 52 seconds midway through the third period of Sunday night's 4-3 victory. They also got power-play goals from Bryan Smolinski and Luc Robitaille.
Stephane Fiset stopped a penalty shot by Mike Ricci for one of his 30 saves, helping preserve the Kings' first victory at the Staples Center. Dan Bylsma and Donald Audette also scored for Los Angeles, which beat San Jose for the fourth straight time.
"It was a real solid effort tonight," said coach Andy Murray, whose disposition was much more genteel than it was after Friday night's 6-3 loss to Phoenix. "Some of the things we didn't do the other night we did tonight like compete hard and battle our opponents physically."
Ricci, Gary Suter and Patrick Marleau scored for the Pacific Division-leaders, who have lost three in a row after getting off to the best start in the NHL at 7-2-0. It was the fourth consecutive game in which they were blanked in the first period.
San Jose trimmed the Kings' lead to 4-2 with 1:11 left in the second, as Suter scored during a two-man advantage after coincidental tripping penalties to Audette and teammate Aki Berg.
The Sharks were storming the net again moments later when Fiset made a sprawling save against Ricci. But he lost the grip on his stick and referee Paul Stewart had no choice but to award Ricci a penalty shot the first ever in the Kings' new building.
"I didn't throw my stick on purpose," Fiset said, "but it went out of my hand. So it was the right call by the referee."
Fiset held his ground and knocked down Ricci's short wrist shot with his glove for his fifth save in eight career penalty shots faced.
"I've known him for a long time because I played with him for six years, so I knew he was going to try to shoot on me it and not try to deke," Fiset said. "I was just trying to be patient with him and he shot it right at me."
Marleau pulled the Sharks within a goal with 2:36 remaining, taking a pass in front from Alexander Korolyuk and scoring into a wide-open net with Fiset out of position. The play started when Berg fanned on a clearing pass deep in the Los Angeles zone.
The Kings, who entered the game with a league-leading power play percentage of 31.4, opened the scoring the first time they had the man advantage after Andy Sutton was sent off for elbowing Audette. Smolinski beat Mike Vernon high to the glove side with a 50-foot slap shot while Glen Murray waved his stick in front of the goaltender trying for a tip-in.
"With the different personnel we have some of the young guys on defense you know we've probably got to make some adjustments," said Sharks coach Darryl Sutter, whose team is struggling without injured defensemen Jeff Norton and Marcus Ragnarsson.
Los Angeles made it 2-0 less than 5 1/2 minutes into the second period on Bylsma's first goal of the season. Steve McKenna outworked Mike Rathje for the puck behind the San Jose net and Bylsma stuffed the puck under Vernn's right leg after Jason Blake made a perfect backhanded pass from the base of the left circle.
"It was a big game for us. We needed this win and everybody came up big," Robitaille said. "Especially after the way we played in the last game, it was important that everybody came out and played hard tonight. That's why we won."
Robitaille gave the Kings a three-goal lead at 9:11 of the second, one-timing a centering pass from Palffy and beating Vernon through the pads from 20 feet. It was Robitaille's eighth goal of the season and 525th of his career, edging him past Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier into 21st place all-time.
Ricci scored for San Jose less than 1 1/2 minutes later, stuffing a rebound under Fiset, but the Kings restored their three-goal margin at 13:26 of the second. Defenseman Brad Stewart had difficulty controlling a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and Audette went in alone on Vernon before faking him to the ice and flipping the puck over his glove.
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