LOS ANGELES -- The two longest stretches of the game Thursday night, and possibly the entire season, were the first 20 minutes of regulation and the last two of overtime. The Kings managed to survive both against the league’s best team, giving them a chance to beat the Blues in a shootout, 1-0, at Staples Center.
With their sixth consecutive victory, combined with a regulation loss by the Dallas Stars earlier Thursday, the Kings moved into first place in the Pacific Division.
The Kings began the game as if they were playing out the final stretch of the regular season before going on vacation. They were outshot, 12-3, in the opening 20 minutes and only the play of goalie Jonathan Quick kept them from falling behind to a team that doesn’t give up leads very easily.
“We didn’t show up in the first,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “We were lucky Quickie kept us in it.”
During the first intermission, the Vancouver Canucks finished off Dallas in regulation, 2-1, putting the Kings in position to take over first in the division. The Kings weren’t paying attention to the out-of-town scoreboard between periods, but they played with a lot more fire coming out for the second, taking the first six shots on goal on the way to out-shooting the Stars, 17-9.
“We got skating, we got moving the puck, got quicker, faster,” said Kings center Jarret Stoll. “We were quicker and faster all over the ice, whether it was to loose pucks or on the forecheck to support each other. They come with a lot of pressure and there’s not much time, so if you have no support out there you’re working an uphill battle.”
The Kings continued to pressure the St. Louis net, taking 15 more shots on goal in the third, but St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott continued to match Quick save for save.
The game then moved to overtime and the Blues received their best chance to win the game when Justin Williams went to the penalty box for tripping with 1:53 left in the extra period.
The Kings stood strong, however, as Greene and fellow defensemen Willie Mitchell stayed on the ice for the entire penalty kill, with Anze Kopitar joining midway through. Kopitar was credited with two blocked shots during the penalty kill and Greene had another.
“We needed a kill,” Greene said. “Give us a chance to win there and, again, Quickie was awesome and he kept us in it. It’s easy when you’ve got a goalie like that behind you.”
Quick had similar praise for the penalty killers in front of him.
“We did a good job blocking shots and clearing out some rebounds,” Quick said. “That’s what you need in order to get two points against a top team in the league right now.”
The best team in the league right now might just be the one in L.A.