Kings try to continue mastery of Panthers

Three goals seems to be the magic number for the Kings, but their first meeting with the Panthers this season was one of the exceptions to the rule.

Los Angeles shoots for its eighth straight win over struggling Florida this evening and a possible share of the Pacific Division lead.

The lowest-scoring team with 114 goals on the season, the Kings were held to just one goal total over the first two contests of their five-game road trip, getting shut out in St. Louis last Friday before a 2-1 defeat the following night in Carolina.

Los Angeles' offense got back on track a bit on Tuesday, getting goals from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Penner and Kyle Clifford, who had the game-winner, in a 3-1 triumph over the Lightning. The Kings moved to 15-0-1 on the year when scoring three or more goals and got 24 saves from goaltender Jonathan Quick.

"Usually when we do get three, we're pretty safe with [Quick] back there, obviously," said Kopitar, who has 11 points in his past 12 games and a team- leading 47 on the season. "He kept us in the game in the first period. They came hard after we scored, and he definitely gave us a chance. That's all you want from your goaltender."

Clifford put the Kings ahead for good when he hoped out of the penalty box and took a long feed from defenseman Rob Scuderi before scoring on a backhander.

"I knew he was coming out of the box, but it was more of an area pass than anything," Scuderi said. "Cliff did the rest. He was real smart by going to the middle of the ice. I kind of threw it out there, but I think it was mostly him getting under it."

Mike Richards added an assist for the Kings, his first point in nine games.

The victory pulled Los Angeles to within two points of San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks, who have three more wins than the Kings, have 64 points on the season.

Los Angeles didn't need three goals to beat Florida back on Dec. 1, getting 41 saves from Quick in a 2-1 win. The Kings have won the past seven encounters since their last loss to the Panthers on Nov. 27, 2002 and haven't lost in Florida since Oct. 26, 2001, winning its past three trips there.

The Panthers will look to snap those skids this evening and get back into first place in the Southeast Division. Florida fell a point behind Washington due to Tuesday's 4-0 setback to the Capitals and now sit ninth overall in the East despite being so close to first place.

Washington hosts Winnipeg this evening.

Former Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 42 saves for Washington, while Scott Clemmensen allowed four goals on 24 shots. He was beaten for a goal just 13 seconds into the game and Florida lost for the ninth time in its last 13 games (4-5-4).

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen cautioned against overreacting to the bad loss.

"This is NHL hockey. It's not saving the world," he said. "When you take a good tail-kicking, you have to recognize it and accept it and say how can we be better next game."

Jose Theodore, currently battling a strained knee, gave up both goals to the Kings on 26 shots in the December meeting.