Series (Game 4 of 5)

Los Angeles leads 4-1

Game 1: Saturday, November 24th
Game 2: Saturday, January 12th
Game 3: Monday, March 18th
Game 4: Saturday, March 23rd
Game 5: Saturday, April 13th

Sharks 0

(37-24-3, 85 pts)

Kings 3

(36-22-4, 85 pts)

4:00 PM ET, March 23, 2002

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California

1 2 3 T
SJ 0 0 00
LA 1 2 03

Z. Palffy (Kings - RW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

F. Potvin (Kings - G): Saves: 17, Save Pct.: 1.000

J. Allison (Kings - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Potvin, Kings shut out Sharks

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- As far as the Los Angeles Kings were concerned, tying the injury-depleted San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division was just the first step toward another long postseason run.

Ziggy Palffy scored two power-play goals and Felix Potvin recorded his 23rd career shutout as the Kings extended their longest winning streak in 10 seasons to six games with a 3-0 victory on Saturday.

"We really didn't talk about it being a game that could put us into first place," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "We knew that they were a wounded animal today with all those players out of the lineup, but wounded animals are very dangerous -- and sometimes very difficult to play against."

The Kings, who won their only division title in 1990-91, have gained 14 points on San Jose in the standings since Dec. 8. The Sharks play seven of their final 10 games at home, while Los Angeles plays six of its last 11 on the road.

The Kings are 4-0 against the Sharks, with one meeting left on April 13 in San Jose. Neither team has swept a season series since the Sharks entered the NHL in 1991-92.

"Our goal in November was just to get back into the playoffs because we were so far behind," Kings defenseman Aaron Miller said. "If you want to catch a team, you have to beat them head-to-head, and we've done that against them. We've got to play them one more time, and that'll be another big one."

The NHL's top-ranked power play and penalty-killing units were too much for a Sharks squad short-handed because of injuries to forwards Owen Nolan, Niklas Sundstrom, Stephane Matteau, Marco Sturm, Todd Harvey and rookie Matt Bradley.

The Sharks, 1-3-1 in their last five games, weren't too surprised that the Kings were finally able to pull even with them.

"In this league there are so many games, so if you get some good momentum going, anything is possible," Teemu Selanne said. "And if you have the best power play in the league, that's a huge advantage. I don't know why we can't do that here."

San Jose was 0-6 with the man advantage against the Kings, and are 2-for-22 over the last five games.

"The power play is the one thing that's really missing," Selanne said. "We have to fix it. We can't afford to make that mistake again this year because that's why we lost in the playoffs last year. I'm not worried about anything else, because this team is going to be scary when we get the power play fixed."

Jaroslav Modry and Jason Allison each had two assists for the Kings, whose winning streak is their longest since an eight-game stretch during the 1991-92 season. Rookie Jaroslav Bednar, in his third stint with Los Angeles, scored for the third time in four games after going scoreless in his first 12 NHL contests.

"L.A. has proven for an extended period of time that they are a stronger team than us," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said. "The thing that impresses me most about them is how good their defense is. I think it was evident today how much stronger they were than our defensemen."

The Kings outshot San Jose 24-10 over the first two periods while building their three-goal lead. Palffy opened the scoring at 18:11 of the first period, converting his own rebound from the right of the net.

Palffy then converted another rebound at 8:57 of the second period for his 27th goal and 13th in 16 games.

Nabokov, who has lost six of 10 starts following a seven-game winning streak, was replaced by Mikka Kiprusoff at the start of the third period.

Game notes

Potvin made 17 saves for his fourth shutout this season, and ninth since joining the Kings in a trade from Vancouver in February 2001. ... Among the crowd of 18,237 was former Kings enforcer Marty McSorley. ... Nolan has no goals in his last nine games against the Kings since Feb. 26, 2000, when he scored twice in a 6-3 win at San Jose. ... Sutter coached his 400th game with the Sharks (177-165-58). San Jose needs 11 more points in its final 10 games to enable Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi to join Al Arbour and Bill Torrey of the New York Islanders as the only coach and GM in NHL history to improve their record with the same team in six consecutive seasons.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press