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Smyth's pair of goals lead Avalanche to 4-3 victory over Kings

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

LOS ANGELES - When a forward line is in synch, there's no better feeling for the three players involved. Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny are seizing the moment and piling up the points for the Colorado Avalanche.

Smyth had two goals and Hejduk extended his season-opening goal streak to six games, leading the Avalanche to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. Stastny had two assists, giving the trio a combined total of 11 goals and 24 points.

"It's obviously a privilege playing with those two guys," Smyth said. "I'm a guy that mucks it up a bit and goes to the net a little harder than those guys because they have that ability to create, and they've played together since Paulie's been in the league. So that makes my job a lot easier."

David Jones scored his first of the season for the Avalanche, who have gotten goals from a league-high 15 different players through the first 1 1/2 weeks of the season. Peter Budaj made 26 saves for his first victory this season, after coming in 0-3 with a 4.38 goals-against average and a save percentage of .824.

Oscar Moller and defenceman Drew Doughty each scored their first NHL goals for the Kings. Moller also assisted on a goal by Patrick O'Sullivan, which gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead at 3:02 of the second period.

Doughty, the second overall pick in the June draft, was beaten by Smyth as the 14-year veteran left wing deftly stickhandled past him in the left circle and flipped his second goal of the game over LaBarbara's glove at 16:32 of the period for a 4-2 Colorado lead.

"A young kid of his calibre is going to go through a lot of ups and downs in his career, but he's a phenomenal hockey player," Smyth said. "That play was just a matter of a little bit of inexperience on his part, but he'll get it."

Doughty came back and cut the deficit to 4-3 with 17:35 left in regulation. He skated the puck into the zone and took a 15-foot wrist shot from the left circle that went through the legs of defenceman John-Michael Liles and past goalie Budaj's stick.

"It was awesome. It was so good to finally get that goal," Doughty said. "It just gave me that boost of confidence. After I got that goal, I was more in the play and rushing the puck a little more. So it was really good. But obviously, it would've been a lot better to win the game."

O'Sullivan scored on a short backhander, after Budaj stopped him from point blank range and thwarted Jarret Stoll's rebound attempt. The Avalanche tied it 2-2 just 59 seconds later, as Kings centre Michal Handzus fanned on a pass deep in his zone and put it right on Hejduk's stick for a short wrist shot past Jason LaBarbera.

"We were sharp around the net," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "We didn't play well enough to create a lot of chances, but when we got our chances, we made the most of them."

Another giveaway by the Kings in their zone led to Jones' goal, which came on a 35-foot slap shot from the slot that beat LaBarbera to the glove side and put Colorado ahead 3-2 at 5:16 of the second.

The Avalanche had only one shot on net until the 11:28 mark of the game, when Smyth beat scored on a one-timer from 15 feet in the slot after getting a touch pass from Stastny.

Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead at 6:19 when Moller got the puck from Alexander Frolov along the goal line to the left of the net and took a sharp-angle wrist shot that found a crack of daylight between Budaj's skates as the goalie hugged the post. The goal came with 15 seconds left on Smyth's penalty for hooking Matt Greene.

Colorado has allowed at least one power play goal in each of its first six games, and has given up eight in 27 short-handed situations altogether. By contrast, Los Angeles has thwarted all 23 of their opponents' power plays. Last season, the Kings' penalty-killing percentage was the worst in the league at 78.0 per cent.

"It's definitely improved from last year, and I think maybe that is starting to be something that everyone is talking about," O'Sullivan said. "Our mentality is that we're going to try to outwork the five guys they put out there against us. And if we continue to do that we're going to have success."

Notes: Moller, who turns 20 years old on Jan. 22, was a second-round pick by the Kings in June 2007. He helped Sweden win a silver medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships. ... After selling out their home opener, the Kings have averaged 14,179 over their last three home games. They drew 13,891 for this one in a building with a capacity of 18,118. ... LaBarbera, who has started all five games for the Kings, was replaced by Erik Ersberg after two periods. ... The only teams other than Los Angeles that haven't allowed a power-play goal are Buffalo and Minnesota.



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