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Kings blank Sharks in opener

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Before Tuesday, the Los Angeles Kings hadn't enjoyed home-ice advantage in a playoff series in more than 20 years.

They picked a perfect time to rekindle those home-sweet-home vibes in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

The defending Stanley Cup champions welcomed the San Jose Sharks to Staples Center riding a 10-game home winning streak, then promptly, decisively, stretched it to 11 with a 2-0 victory.

Game 2 is Thursday, again at Staples Center, before the series moves to the Bay Area for Games 3 and 4.

"I think we want to have good starts, try to have an identity, try to not take penalties, try to be strong on the walls, try to use four lines, try to use six defensemen," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "If everybody's doing that at home, you have a chance to win."

The Sharks have 48 hours to solve the Kings' home-ice advantage.

"We have to get better just a little bit," San Jose forward Joe Thornton said. "We had a couple of good looks on the power play. We have to sharpen up, and hopefully that will be the difference next game.

"We played well. They got the first goal in the first (period) even though I thought we carried the game in the first. They are the champs. We have to come down and win some games here."

In the meantime, the Kings will continue doing what they do, and that means playing a tough, physical, grind-it-out game while leaning heavily on red-hot goalie Jonathan Quick.

In other words, the same blueprint that carried them to their first Stanley Cup title in club history last season, and one they are seemingly intent on following to another run at a championship this year.

In Tuesday's game, however, they flipped the script a bit relative to their current playoff M.O.

For the first time this postseason, the Kings actually built a multi-goal lead after getting a first-period score from Slava Voynov and a second-period goal from Mike Richards.

The Kings then handed matters over to Quick, who continued his brilliant play this postseason. He turned away all 35 shots he faced, including 16 in a furious third period in which the relentless Sharks kept firing away.

Quick is displaying the form that helped lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup last season.

"Sure looks like it," Kings center Dustin Brown said. "He's been our MVP the last couple years, and tonight he was our best player, and that's Quick being Quick. I think you guys should be used to it by now."

The shutout was Quick's sixth in postseason play, breaking the franchise record. He's now stopped 202 of 212 shots in seven playoff games this year (.953 save percentage), and his 25 career postseason wins are one behind Kelly Hrudey's team record.

In front of him, a staunch Kings defense killed off three more power plays to build its postseason resume to 18 penalty kills in 20 chances.

"We talked about this before the series, they have a really good power play," Brown said. "I think it's important for us to (to kill off penalties). There's going to be penalties ... big, strong, physical plays, they get called. We're going to kill those. It's the O-zone plays, the hooks, the holds, those undisciplined penalties, those are the ones we have to stay away from."

The defending champs are finding their groove at the right time. They fell behind 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs before reeling off four straight wins.

Make that five straight after shutting out the Sharks while enjoying the rare home-ice benefit.

"It felt weird, to be honest with you, but it is what it is," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said of playing Game 1 at home. "It's this time of the year. It's nice to have home ice and it's nice to stay home an extra day, but we realize that we're going to have to do it on the road at some point, too. It's just a matter of going out and performing and playing our game."

Meanwhile, the Sharks are searching for answers.

"All the cliches, I can stand up here and use them all," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But it's about getting it done. When the night ends, you have to have the job done. You can have as many good looks as you want, you can be in all alone, you have to find ways to finish, and we have players that are very capable of doing that, we have players that are capable of scoring greasy, dirty, playoff style goals."

NOTES: Kings C Jarret Stoll absorbed a huge hit from San Jose's Raffi Torres in the second period and did not return to the game. Torres was given a 2-minute minor on the play, and the NHL will likely review the hit, with a suspension a possibility. The Kings did not update Stoll's condition afterward, although coach Darryl Sutter did say: "We weren't resting him." ...The California dynamic to the series might not resonate on the prairies of rural Canada, but in the Golden State, it can't be ignored. And the players are grasping it. "I think it's a great thing for California to get these two teams in this situation," Brown said. "It's the perfect time for it because of how well hockey is doing. We know what's at stake after what we did last year, and they know it as well." Said Sharks captain Thornton: "It's pretty cool. Hockey is big out here now. You have a lot of youngsters playing, a lot of older people, too. Hockey is thriving out here in the West."
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