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Kings hold on to beat Avalanche, 4-3

February 26, 2011 |  3:53 pm


Forced to reconfigure their lineup Saturday after left wing Marco Sturm was unexpectedly claimed on waivers by Washington, the Kings took the change in stride by moving Brad Richardson to Sturm’s previous spot on the top line. Richardson helped set up the team’s first goal in a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche before an announced sellout crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center.

Although they haven’t always adjusted well on the fly this season -- such as when other teams figured out their power-play strategy or penalty-killing schemes -- the Kings on Saturday calmly handled the lineup change caused by Sturm's loss. Anze Kopitar scored for the third straight game — he had scored only once in the team’s previous 15 games — and the Kings took a season-high 42 shots.

Colorado made it close with three goals in the third period, including an unassisted goal at 19:30 after a turnover by the Kings in their own end.

The victory was the Kings’ third straight and improved their record to 11-1-3 in their last 15 games.

The Avalanche, which has won only once in its last 13 games, put up little resistance or pressure against Jonathan Quick until the final period.

The King scored first, at 7:13 of the first period. Wayne Simmonds dumped the puck behind Colorado’s defense and pursued it behind the net. He won it and got it to Richardson, who threw it in front. The puck bounced in the slot and Kopitar potted the rebound for his 20th goal this season.

They padded their lead to 2-0 at 9:50 of the second period on a play made possible by the strength and tenacity of Kyle Clifford. Although the gritty winger was tied up along the boards he managed to slide the puck back to the left point to Alec Martinez, whose shot sailed past a motionless Brian Elliott.

After squandering two five-on-three advantages and five power plays overall the Kings finally connected on their sixth attempt. Drew Doughty scored his 10th goal of the season on a long slap shot, set up on passes by Kopitar and Ryan Smyth, triggering a bonus clause in Doughty's contract that pays him $212,500 for scoring 10 goals.

Jarret Stoll made it 4-0 with a power-play shot from above the left circle at 5:47 of the third period off a nice cross-ice pass from Justin Williams. Doughty earned the second assist, his 23rd assist this season — two away from triggering another bonus of $212,500.

The Avalanche scored during a five-on-three power play at 12:42 of the third period and again one second after a power play had ended, at 13:21. The crowd murmured in concern after Colorado's third goal but the Kings held on.

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--Helene Elliott

Photo: Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick looks to cover the pucks as teammate Alec Martinez and Colorado left wing Cody McLeod scramble for the rebound Saturday at Staples Center. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Associated Press