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Sharks Fall To Kings In Division Showdown

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Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks pursues Dustin Penner #25 of the Los Angeles Kings for the puck in the second period at Staples Center on March 20, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks pursues Dustin Penner #25 of the Los Angeles Kings for the puck in the second period at Staples Center on March 20, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards each had a goal and two assists, and the Los Angeles Kings moved into an eighth-place tie in the Western Conference with their fifth consecutive victory, 5-2 over the stumbling San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

Alec Martinez scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period, Dustin Penner added an insurance goal with 4:06 to play, and Jeff Carter added an empty-netter for the Kings, who moved into a second-place tie with the Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific Division.

Jonathan Quick made 20 saves for Los Angeles, which is just one point behind the first-place Dallas Stars and holds a game in hand on the Coyotes.

Marty Havlat had a goal and an assist, and Dan Boyle scored with 13:04 left in the Sharks’ eighth loss in 11 games.

Antti Niemi stopped 37 shots for the Sharks, who followed up Monday’s embarrassing home loss to last-place Anaheim with an undisciplined third period down the coast.

The longtime California rivals entered with 82 points apiece, one point behind Dallas and Phoenix in third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings and Sharks, who are among six teams scrapping for three playoff spots, hadn’t met since Dec. 23, but they face each other in three of their final 10 games, finishing the regular season with a home-and-home set.

San Jose hasn’t led in five consecutive periods, and the Pacific Division’s longtime power is running out of time to get it together.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both went scoreless for the second straight game for the back-to-back Western Conference finalists, who have earned seven consecutive playoff berths and four straight division titles. The Sharks dropped into a 10th-place tie with Calgary with this loss—yet they are also just three points out of the division lead.

Meanwhile, the Kings are in position to contend for just the second division title in franchise history after another strong effort led by Kopitar, who scored a goal in his fourth consecutive game.

Richards got the Kings started late in the first period, breaking out on a 2-on-1 short-handed rush and firing a shot past Niemi for his 16th goal. Havlat evened it with his fourth goal in four games since returning from a 39-game absence with a hamstring injury.

Kopitar’s behind-the-net pass in the second period set up Martinez’s goal. The Sharks then lost discipline and took three straight high-sticking penalties early in the third period—and San Jose had another delayed penalty looming when Kopitar netted his team-leading 24th goal.

Los Angeles could have had more, but failed to score during 52 seconds of 5-on-3 play—and Boyle trimmed the lead back to one goal by finishing a tic-tac-toe play with 13:04 left, snapping a 16-game goal drought for the star defenseman.

A few shifts after Kopitar put a backhand off the post with less than 6 minutes to play, Penner slipped into the San Jose end and surprised Niemi with a low wrist shot. The power forward has been a disappointment with just seven goals, but Penner has scored in consecutive games.

NOTES: Richards has scored three of the Kings’ eight short-handed goals this season, ranking him third in the NHL. He has 26 in his career, the most in the NHL over the past seven seasons. … Martinez has two goals in three games after failing to score since Nov. 12. … San Jose has missed the playoffs once since 1997. … Los Angeles’ Darryl Sutter coached his 900th NHL game, including 434 for the Sharks from 1997-2002. He also coached 42 Sharks playoff games.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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