Kings Crown Coyotes

There's a reason why the Los Angeles Kings went after Ziggy Palffy, high salary and all. It should be clear to everyone now that the Kings are leading the NHL.

"No question he's valuable that's why we pay him $5 million a year," coach Andy Murray said after Palffy scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday night. "He's scored some timely goals for us this year."

Palffy, Rob Blake and Craig Johnson backed up a strong performance by backup goalie Jamie Storr as the Kings moved ahead of idle San Jose into first place in the Pacific Divison.

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  • The Kings, who have been to the playoffs just once in the last six seasons and finished fifth in the division last season, also are tied with Ottawa for most points in the NHL.

    Blake scored a power-play goal for the Kings, and Johnson and Palffy scored on breakaways.

    Storr, 4-0-1 this season, made 27 saves in his third consecutive start. He is thriving while Stephane Fiset recovers from a hand injury.

    "The team is playing so well in this streak it doesn't matter who is in net," said Storr, who gave up third-period goals to Greg Adams and Rick Tocchet.

    The Coyotes had rallied to win three times and tie four times in nine games previous games when they fell behind by two goals.

    This time, Palffy interrupted Phoenix's momentum when he swept down the left side and beat goalie Mikahil Shtalenkov with a slap shot from the circle. That madit 3-1 with 9:53 left in the game, and the Kings held on to improve to an NHL-best 7-2-2 on the road.

    "It was important because we were struggling," said Palffy, who led the New York Islanders in goals and points last season. "I only had one other shot in the game, so it was important to get it. They scored against our penalty-killing, so it wasn't in the bag."

    "You can't expect to win hockey games when you're down two or three goals," Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk said.

    Shtalenkov, who had given up 13 goals in his last three games, made only 15 saves as the Coyotes lost for the fourth time in five games. He has lost four in a row since being named the NHL player of the month for October.

    "We had our chances," Tocchet said. "You know, we had 30-some shots (actually 29) and they had 18. The only thing is you can watch the shot clock and all, but it's results-oriented, and we didn't get the results."

    The Coyotes played the last two periods without defenseman Jyrki Lumme, who had offseason surgery on his left shoulder and reinjured himself when he crashed into the boards.

    Phoenix got a defenseman back in J.J. Daigneault, activated after missing the last four games because of a groin strain. But without Lumme, the Coyotes didn't look like the team that entered the game as the league's top penalty-killers giving up a goal on the first Los Angeles advantage.

    Blake scored on a one-timer from the circle, beating Shtalenkov on the glove side with 9:27 left in the first period.

    Johnson was six seconds shy of a shorthanded goal when he scored to make it 2-0. Blake had just emerged from the penalty box when Johnson cut between two Coyotes to steal a crossing pass and skate unhindered down the slot for a lot shot that handcuffed Shtalenkov with 4:07 left in the second period.

    Adams scored 9:21 into the third, but Palffy restored the two-goal lead only 46 seconds later.

    Adams assisted on Tocchet's goal with 6:47 to play, feeding a wraparound pass.

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