They couldn't have scripted it any better

February, 13, 2010
2/13/10
11:37
PM PT
They couldn't have scripted it any better.

Not only did the Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche tonight, for a key two points going into the Olympic break, but they shut them out, 3-0. Jonathan Quick rebounded from a bout with flu to not only get the win and the goose egg, but he was also the No. 1 one star of the game. And by the time that announcement was made, the crowd was already chanting "USA, USA, USA," turning its focus away from the NHL for the next few weeks and to Vancouver, where Quick and three of his Kings teammates will be representing their respective countries for the Olympics.

Quick, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown will all play for Team USA. Drew Doughty will play for Team Canada and Michael Handzus will play for Team Slovakia, along with goaltender Peter Budaj of the Avalanche. Another member of the Avs, Ruslan Salei, will represent Belarus.

All eight players were recognized at center ice after the game by the crowd at Staples, who stood and cheered as the seconds ticked down on an important win for their team, and then cheered even louder as the Olympic representatives from both teams convened at center ice, just moments after banging heads with one other.

"That's what it's all about," Quick said. "It's quite an honor to be part of it. It's gonna be an experience, it's gonna be a lot of fun."

"It's a unique experience," Brown said. "It doesn't happen too often, so obviously to be a part of it was kinda cool. I think it's a pretty good way to send off guys, especially from both teams that were playing here tonight."

All these guys have been a tad distracted these last five weeks or so, thrilled to be picked to participate in the Olympics but trying to focus on the most immediate task at hand -- their jobs as NHL players, trying to fight and scrap for as many precious points as possible before the break.

"Now I can take my focus off the Kings for a little bit," said Doughty, "and focus on Team Canada and doing our best to win a gold medal."

"I tried not to think too much about it," Handzus said. "I watched the opening ceremony yesterday, but I wanted to go away with a win first and that was a huge win tonight. We knew that Phoenix lost and if we won we'd be in good shape coming into the break so that was a huge win for us."

As usual, Quick refused to take any credit for the win -- or the shutout -- even though he was called upon to make several spectacular saves during the game, especially in the early going when the Kings were clinging to a very precarious 1-0 lead.

"You know, those are team wins," Quick said. "Every win is a team effort."

And tonight's was a big one for Quick -- his 35th of the season, which ties a team record set by Mario Lessard in the 1980-81 season.

"Obviously," the always humble Quick continued, "I owe that record to the guys working in front of me here so hats off to them."

Quick got a lot of help from Johnson, who assisted on the second and third goals tonight and was the second star of the game. Johnson, of course, flew up to Vanvouver on a private jet for Friday night's opening ceremony and then returned immediately afterward, getting to bed well after 3 a.m. Saturdaybut up in time for the morning skate.

Maybe Johnson should fly all night more often right before a game?

"Uh, if I thought that would help," Johnson deadpanned, "I would, but I don't think so.

"The travel went absolutely as smoothly as I could have hoped," he added, smiling widely. "I knew I was gonna get back late but it was worth every minute of it. I got to get a lot of rest after the skate, and went in for a really, really long pre-game nap. I just knew I had to be ready at 7:30 tonight and I had a job to do and one more game to go until the Olympics."

For Johnson in particular, the outburst of patriotic support tonight at Staples was extra special.

"Oh, it's awesome," he said. "I'm sure we're getting that support all over the country. I certainly saw that support last night in Vancouver and I definitely expected that here at Staples and to see that is awesome."

And the fact that players from the Avalanche were right there at center ice with him and his Kings teammates made it even more special.

"Even last night when we were gathered up, all the athletes," said Johnson, "we didn't know each other, we didn't even know what sport each other played but instantly you got that bond and connection because you're all representing Team USA and even though we play on different teams, we're gonna be as tight knit a group as you'll ever see."

Now all the U.S. team has to do is replicate what previous underdog Olympic hockey teams have done in 1960 and 1980 -- win the gold medal. Reminded that it has been 30 years since the Lake Placid "Miracle On Ice," Brown, whose hometown is nearby Ithaca, N.Y., was unfazed.

"That's what we're striving for," he said, "to be included as one of three teams to win a gold medal is obviously a huge honor but it's gonna take a lot of work and dedication."

He didn't say it was impossible.
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