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Kings On A Roll And In Control

It was, to say the very least, not your usual Ryan Smyth goal.

With the Kings hanging on precariously to a 4-3 lead at the halfway point of the third period and with the Vancouver Canucks frantically pressing and trying to tie up a game they once trailed, 4-1, Smyth was gassed, trying to get off the ice for a rest, when he fired a shot towards the Vancouver net.

It skipped off a Canuck defender, fluttered, dipped, flipped ... and went right over Andrew Raycroft's glove and into the net.

For a guy who's made a living scoring goals so close to the netminder that he can count his nose hairs, it was a change of pace for Smyth -- but he'll take it.

"Well my first NHL goal was from the blue line," said Smyth, grinning, "so I think I'll remember that one forever. But yeah, that goal tonight was a little ways out and obviously towards the end of a shift and I just wanted to get it on net. I think it went off a skate -- a seeing eye shot."

"That's a playoff goal," said coach Terry Murray. "That's what happens. You shoot the puck, it hits a defenseman's skate and ends up a knuckleball over the goalie's glove, so you gotta keep shooting."

The Kings did just that tonight, going 3-for-3 on their power play, which makes them an astounding 7-of-12 in the series so far. A big part of the success of the PP is the play of the two quarterbacks on the blue line--Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty.

"I'm big on having the activity start from the blue line," Murray said, "and those two can move across the blue line, backwards, in a passing and shooting position as well as anybody in the league and when you have that kind of a look, you're not pulling the puck across in front of you, it's in that shooting as well as passing position. You're going to create some hesitancy, make players commit, start to block shots, and they can hold on, pull it another couple of feet and now they've got a wrist shot to the net. It gives you a real weapon and it's a very dangerous look."

Especially dangerous because the two are capable of mixing up each "look" they give from one power play to the next.

"Drew and I are trying not to ever do the same thing twice," said Johnson, who had three assists tonight and was the game's number one star. "I think once you become predictable, you get in trouble, especially in a 7-game series. That's one of our strengths -- I don't think he and I are predictable and we're going to try and keep that going. That might be part of the problem for them, but truthfully I think we're getting some puck luck, we're fortunate now that we're 7 of 12 but I think all the credit has to go to the forwards. Drew and I are just getting the shots through."

"We've been working on it a lot in practice," said Doughty, who scored a goal and added three assists, "watching video on the Canucks' penalty kill and see what they're doing and not doing and we happened to open up those lanes today and thank God those were going in."

Or, thank Michal Handzus.

He was a force around the net for the Kings, scoring back-to-back goals that gave them a 3-1 lead halfway through the game.

"We're trying to get it deep and play down low," said Handzus, "that's our game the whole season. I thought we did a good job for most of the night.I thought [Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo] had a couple of great saves but we had a lot of traffic. When you do that, there's going to be rebounds. That's how we have to approach every game -- just get traffic, get in front of the net and try to find rebounds."

Luongo was chased from the game after the Kings next goal, an unassisted steal by Brad Richardson, who forced a turnover in front of the Canucks net, whirled and fired a shot past Luongo, who allowed four goals on just 16 shots but was unfazed afterwards.

"I'm already focused on the next game," he said. "We came here hoping to win both, but with a split we can take control of the series and get home ice again. It's just a matter of getting ready for the next game."

Which is exactly what the Kings will be doing too -- and they're surely not expecting Luongo to repeat tonight's sub-par performance.

"He's a world glass goaltender," said Johnson, "and it doesn't happen very often but when you get a chance to [knock him out of a game], you gotta do it, it may be the only chance we get in the series. We know he's going to be phenomenal in the next game. Even though we had a great game tonight, we know this series is far from over."

"We expect him to be on top of his game for sure," said Smyth, adding that there's no mystery to the Kings game plan: They'll be in Luongo's face again--early and often.

"Obviously that's what we want to do," said Smyth. "We want to get to the net and create traffic and back him up a bit but I've said this before: I believe he's a great goaltender but any goaltender, if they can't see it, it's gonna be hard for him."

A sentiment that was echoed by the man who's been preaching it since day one:

"You gotta score playoff goals," said Murray, "and that means going to the net, creating a lot of traffic, doing a lot of hanging out, looking for loose pucks, rebounds, second and third opportunities. It's very hard to score in the NHL today with the original attack so you gotta just keep putting pucks there, hoping for good things to happen."

Tonight that style of play produced a lot of good things for the Kings.

They'll be looking for more of the same good things to happen on Wednesday night in Game 4.