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Early goals spark Kings' win over Sharks

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings figured out a way to insure a two-game losing streak didn't turn into season-long three-game skid.

Pound the visiting San Jose Sharks from various angles, launching points and distances and then clamp down on them defensively from start to finish.

The result was a dominating 5-2 win Saturday at Staples Center in which the Kings returned the favor after falling to their Pacific Division rivals two nights before in San Jose.

The Kings followed the same well-grounded recipe that's typically led to wins this year -- establish control early by scoring first, then continue to build on that momentum.

Kyle Clifford did the honors on objective one, beating San Jose goalie Antii Niemi 2:27 into the first period to put the Kings up 1-0, and Justin Williams took care of objective two by tacking on another goal nine minutes late to put extend the lead to 2-0.

"We came out with a strong first period and definitely got it going from there," Clifford said.

Meanwhile, Sharks coach Todd McLellan seethed from the bench.

"They scored on the first shot," McLellan said, incredulously. "When you need a save early in the game, they score on the first shot and get all the momentum from there."

What irked McLellan more was the lack of response from the Sharks despite understanding the Kings would be motivated to rebound from the 4-3 loss in San Jose on Thursday.

"What a great opportunity for our team to test themselves collectively, but also individually," McLellan said. " 'Do I belong in the NHL? When I look across, can I go play the guy I line up against?' "

Instead of rise up to the challenge, though, the Sharks folded.

"And we had a lot of passengers," McLellan said. "So disappointing. So disappointing."

San Jose forward Joe Thornton agreed.

"If you don't have an A game you have to have a B game but some guys had their D game," Thornton said. "At this level that just can't happen against elite teams."

The Kings moved to 10-1-1 in games they've scored first moved their home record to 9-1 over their last 10.

More importantly, they pushed two points ahead of the Sharks in the Western Conference playoff standings -- 32 points to 30 -- and are now tied with Minnesota for fifth place.

Clifford figured prominently in the win, adding another goal midway through the second period to make it 3-1 and going toe-to-toe with San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray during a second-period brawl. Despite giving up one inch and 33 pounds to Marleau, it was Clifford executing the take-down to claim the bout.

"He got a big hit on (Anze Kopitar) and I wanted to make sure he knew what was going on," Clifford said.

It was Clifford's first multi-goal game of his career, but it's difficult to decide what was more impressive - the two goals of the take down of Murray.

Either way, the 22-year-old left-winger was a key factor in the victory.

But seemingly everyone had a hand, as 12 Kings recorded a point and Bernier had 20 saves on 22 goals.

If it's possible for a blowout win to have a turning point, it occurred midway through the second period when Kings rookie Tyler Toffoli slashed Tommy Wingels from behind on a clear-path to the goal -- shattering Wingels stick in the process -- resulting in a penalty shot for Wingels with the Kings leading, 2-1.

But with a chance to tie the game, Wingels couldn't beat Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, who snapped Wingels wrist shot out of the air to preserve the lead.

The Kings responded with three straight goals, with Jarret Stoll, Clifford and Dwight King all finding the net to put the Kings ahead 5-1.

The Sharks got a second-period goal from Patrick Marleau and a late third-period goal from Matt Irwin to make it 5-2.

Meanwhile, the Kings made sure a two-game losing streak didn't become three.

"I think we kind of have that New England Patriots mindset where we don't want to lose two in a row," Clifford said. "Coming off a two-game (losing streak) that's big for us. So we definitely wanted to come back."

NOTES: The Kings had won 11 of 14 before dropping two straight to Phoenix and San Jose this week, their first two-game losing streak since losing to Nashville and Detroit February 9th and 10th. As was the case the last time the Kings lost two consecutive games, their recent skid occurred on the road. The good news is, including Saturday they play five straight at home, where they've been dominant recently while winning eight of their last nine. ... The Kings hope to take advantage on the home stand, as they face five straight on the road beginning March 25 in Chicago. ... Kings top prospect Tyler Toffoli made his NHL debut Saturday. The 20-year-old center was the leading scorer in the AHL with the Kings' Manchester affiliate, scoring 28 goals with 27 assists in 55 games. ... Sharks coach Todd McLellan set a new franchise record with his 207th win Thursday when San Jose beat Los Angeles 4-3. ... The Sharks, who snapped a four-game winless streak with the win Thursday play their next five on the road, including Saturday's game against the Kings.
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