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Kings' fast start, defense doom Oilers

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LOS ANGELES -- For most of the season the Los Angeles Kings have been slow starters and fast finishers, dominating the second and third periods, but after deliberate beginnings.

Looks like they've decided to own the first periods now, too.

For the second straight game they got off to a furious start, scoring two goals before the Edmonton Oilers could get themselves out of first gear.

The result was a 4-1 Kings win in front of a sold out Staples Center.

Much like they did Thursday against Minnesota, the Kings scored less than two minutes in -- this time when Jeff Carter found Mike Richards in front of the net and Richards fired a shot past Devan Dubnyk give the Kings a 1-0 lead.

Carter struck next when he beat Dubnyk on a power play, and the Kings were up 2-0 on the obviously sluggish Oilers.

Carter has a team high 22 goals.

"It wasn't very pretty," Carter said. "We were moving it around. I kind of went to the net and got a deflection."

Coming in, the Kings had outscored opponents 40-31 in the second period and 40-28 in the third while being outscored 29-26 in the first.

But they've outscored Minnesota and Edmonton 4-0 during the last two games, taking control of both early and then leaning on the goaltending of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier and their patient, hard-hitting defense to grind out wins.

"Discipline is a huge factor. L.A. is a good team. They are a hard team to beat when you are undisciplined and taking penalties," Edmonton forward Sam Gagner said.

Quick had 22 saves and improved to 13-11 on the season.

Afterward, he praised his defense.

"They did a great job today," Quick said. "I thought we did a good job of not giving up many rebounds and I was able to do that because I was able to see the puck a lot of times. So they played great in front of me."

With the win, the Kings nudged ahead of San Jose into fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race, one point ahead of the Sharks.

San Jose, which has won seven straight, plays the Dallas Stars Sunday.

The Kings play at Anaheim.

"You're only as good as your next game and it doesn't matter how everything is going," Quick said. "We got a big one tomorrow down in Anaheim, so we're going to get ready for that and try to get two points out of that."

The Oilers cut the Los Angeles lead to 2-1 when Magnus Paajarvi scored on a power play, but the Kings answered right back with Slava Voynov's power-play goal.

Drew Doughty added an empty-net goal late in the third to make it 4-1.

It was Doughty's second goal of the season.

The Kings are now 101-1-11 over their last 113 games when leading after the second period, a stretch that began in 2009. The only regulation loss they suffered in that run came this year against Colorado.

Meanwhile they moved to 19-3-1 this year when scoring three or more goals.

Edmonton lost its second straight to fall further out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The Oilers are in ninth place in the conference.

"For us it's about finding ways to raise our level. These are important games. These are games you want to be a part of down the stretch, fighting for your playoff lives," Gagner said. "These games are more intense and we have to raise our level pretty quick."

The Kings, meanwhile, seem to be putting it together just in time for the playoffs.

"It's always a work in progress and this is a time of year where you have to get wins and lately it seems like we are," Carter said. "You win a few games and lose one and you're right back where you started in the standings, so we got to put a run together and get our spot up."

NOTES: Quick was back in goal for the Kings, one game after Bernier shut out the Minnesota Wild. Quick came in with 28 games played on the year, a 12-11 record and 2.54 GAA. Bernier has 12 games, a 9-2 record and a 1.77 GAA. The stats suggest Bernier is playing better, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter insists he will doll playing time out essentially the same way he has been, which means Quick gets the majority of starts. Both goalies have handled the situation as well as can be expected, and while some suggested the Kings move Bernier at the deadline, it makes more sense to drive up his value the rest of the season and revisit moving him over the summer. ... The Kings have been dominant at home this year, coming into Saturday with a 13-4-1 record at Staples Center while outscoring opponents 55-33. ... First-year defenseman Jake Muzzin has enjoyed a solid rookie year for the Stanley Cup champions, entering Saturday with a plus-11 over his last 16 games while notching 10 points over his last 17. ... Edmonton came in having won five of its last six, but they remain on the outside looking in on the playoffs after falling into ninth place in the Western Conference after Thursday's loss to Vancouver. ... Jerred Smithson, who was acquired by the Oilers from the Florida Panthers at the deadline, is a new daddy after his wife Jaymie gave birth to son Hunter on Thursday. Smithson was available to play for the Oilers Saturday.
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