In one night, the Los Angeles Kings made the leap from eighth to third in the Western Conference standings by taking over the Pacific Division lead. Jonathan Quick made it happen with one of his most memorable outings, tying the team record for shutouts in a season the process.
Quick held his own in a brilliant goaltending duel Thursday night with Brian Elliott, making 35 saves for his eighth shutout, and Jeff Carter scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of a shootout to give the Kings a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Elliott made 37 saves for his eighth shutout of the season and 16th overall.
The Kings are 3-4-1 in 1-0 decisions this season, including a loss to the Blues on Feb. 3 in St. Louis. The Blues are 4-1 in games decided by a 1-0 score, the other games decided in regulation.
”It was a lot of fun. That was a great game,” said Quick, who matched Rogie Vachon’s shutout total from 1976-77 and pushed his career total to 23. ”I tip the cap to Elliot. He played unreal down at the other end and made some big saves to keep them in it. For no goals scored, I think it was a pretty exciting game.”
Los Angeles finished the season series 3-1 against the Blues, who last Saturday reached 100 points for the fifth time in club history and became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. It doesn’t get any easier for the Kings, whose next two opponents will be last season’s Stanley Cup finalists – Boston and Vancouver. The game against the Canucks kicks off a four-game trip.
”This means nothing if we don’t win on Saturday,” Quick said. ”We know what it’s like out there, and we know how tight it is.”
The Kings posted their season-high sixth straight win after outshooting St. Louis 35-32 in regulation. They had 32 shots in the second and third periods after getting outshot 13-3 in the first by a team that came in allowing an NHL-low 26.2 shots on net per game.
St. Louis and Los Angeles came in 1-2 in the NHL in goals-against average, the Blues having allowed 1.85 goals per game and the Kings 2.06. Elliott came in with a league-best 1.62 goals-against average, and Quick was fourth with a 2.00 GAA.
”Both teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in defense, and both goalies made a lot of big saves – ours in the first and theirs in the second,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. ”We’re probably fortunate to get an extra point tonight. We have to continue to work at forging that identity, that whole compete, commitment thing.”
Sutter’s teams have earned 1,001 standings points, including 38 extra points from overtime and shootouts losses. The Kings are 22-11-8 since he took over behind the bench.
One night after blowing three one-goal leads in a 4-3 loss at Anaheim with Halak in net, the Blues hunkered down defensively in front of Elliott by blocking 14 shots. They lead the NHL with 101 points, two more than the idle New York Rangers.
St. Louis defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo left the game for good at 13:43 of the second period because of a lower back injury, which occurred when he got tangled up with Kings captain Dustin Brown deep in the Blues’ zone and drew an interference penalty before his backward momentum sent him crashing into the right post. Chris Porter served the penalty for Colaiacovo, but the Kings’ power play lasted less than a minute before Slava Voynov was sent off for interference.
The Blues outshot the Kings 12-1 through the first 17 minutes and came within inches of taking the lead.
Quick went behind the net to play the puck and gave it to defenseman Matt Greene, who lost possession to Patrik Berglund on the forecheck. His attempted centering pass squirted off Quick’s skate as he scrambled back to the crease, then rolled parallel to the goal line before Quick cleared it away with a backhanded swipe less than 2 minutes before intermission.
”Our best player was our goaltender, and that’s what we needed in the first,” Kings center Jarret Stoll said. ”Sometimes you need that, but you don’t want that to happen very often. He’s been making big saves all year, and we needed him tonight. We didn’t have our full 60-minute effort, but we found a way to win and get two points.”
Notes: T.J. Oshie is the only player on the Blues’ roster who has participated in all 12 of their shootouts. He has scored five times – including Thursday, and is 16 for 31 in the tiebreaker during his career. … Quick beat St. Louis 5-0 Oct. 18 in their home opener. Jaroslav Halak beat the Kings 1-0 on Feb. 3, with Jamie Langenbrunner scoring the only goal. … The Blues were 0 for 14 on the power play against the Kings in the season series, one of them in the final 1:53 of overtime after the Kings’ Justin Williams was sent off for tripping Berglund. … The Blues are 40-13-9 since coach Ken Hitchcock inherited a 6-7-0 record from Davis Payne on Nov. 6. Hitchcock has a chance to join Bruce Boudreau (Washington 2007-08) and Bill Barber (Philadelphia 2000-01) as the only coaches to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year after taking over a team once the season was underway. The Adams Trophy was established in 1974.