The new twigs paid immediate dividends for Jason King.
King, who had gone 14 games without scoring a goal, received a new shipment of CCM Vector composite sticks yesterday and produced the game-winning goal as the Manitoba Moose earned a 2-0 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in AHL action before a crowd of 8,477 at the MTS Centre.
King, who had 10 assists during the drought that extended back to a two-goal performance against the Chicago Wolves on Jan. 1, converted a pass in the slot from centre Peter Sarno at 12:18 of the opening period that beat Griffins goalie Joey MacDonald through the five-hole.
"I'm glad it's over -- it's always a relief to get one but I wasn't that disappointed with the way I was playing," said King, who notched his team-leading 22nd of the season. "The points were still there and that made it easier (to stay positive) than usual. The biggest thing was getting back to the quick release and finding the areas I usually get to."
Nathan Smith, with his fourth of the season and first since Jan. 18, added an empty-netter with 34.4 seconds to play.
Moose goalie Alex Auld, starting for the 10th time in 11 games, took care of the rest by making 18 saves for his second shutout of the season.
"The guys made it easy, (Grand Rapids) only had five scoring chances," said Auld, noting he had a feeling King was about to end his slump. "I looked at them before the game and I told him 'they were some of the nicest sticks I'd ever seen.' He's such a goal scorer, it was only a matter of time."
The two teams meet again tonight as the Moose continue a four-game homestand.
With the win, the Moose (30-11-1-5) established a franchise record for wins in a month (11) and pulled to within three points of the Rochester Americans (31-9-3-4) for first place in the North Division.
Despite playing nearly every other night in January, the Moose posted a record of 11-2-0-3 while they continued to battle for top spot in the Western Conference.
The first period was a defensive struggle as the two teams combined for 10 shots (five apiece), but the second was a little more wide open -- although there were no goals to speak of.
"It was kind of kitty-bar-the-door hockey and you're going to see more of that down the stretch here as points become more important," said Moose head coach Randy Carlyle. "It's a fact."
It was another tough night for the Moose power play, which has produced three goals in its last 30 opportunities during the past six games.
The Moose had an ideal chance to extend the lead after referee Bob Langdon gave Griffins captain Blake Sloan a high-sticking major at the end of the opening period, but the Moose couldn't convert.
MOOSE TRACKS: Former Moose head coach Stan Smyl is in town this week and he'll see plenty of action. Smyl, who became the Vancouver Canucks director of player development on June 7 after spending five seasons as the bench boss of the Canucks' primary affiliate, is in the area to watch some professional, junior and NCAA hockey action. Smyl said he's been keeping busy watching Canucks' prospects around North America. Smyl will take in the WHL game between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen tomorrow before traveling to Grand Forks on the weekend to check out the UND Fighting Sioux and Denver Pioneers.