Los Angeles Hockey: Scott Nichol

Kings: Boarding penalty wobbles foundation of the Blues

April, 29, 2012
Western Conference semifinals

Game 2 (Kings lead series 1-0)

Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Series changer? -- Whether the contact made by Kings rookie forward Dwight King on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in Game 1 was a “vicious hit,” as one member of the St. Louis media claimed, or “not even a hit,” as Kings coach Darryl Sutter saw the play, it stands as not just a key moment in the game, but possibly the entire series. The Kings scored a shorthanded goal on the ensuing power play to take the lead for good, Pietrangelo didn’t return in his team's 3-1 loss and he was kept out of practice Sunday as well, putting him in jeopardy of missing Game 2. Pietrangelo is not just one of the top defensemen in the league, but he leads the Blues in ice time and is a vital part of their special teams.

2. Penner makes a peep -- Don’t look now but Dustin Penner officially joined Twitter on Sunday, a day after the brawny left wing produced a goal and an assist in the Game 1 victory at Scottrade Center. Not a bad time to open up to the world. The question is, can he string together back-to-back strong performances? Penner’s contract runs out after this season and he hasn’t done much in the past 14 months to show he’s worth the $4.25 million he's making. But if he can once again show he’s a big-game player by producing key points in the playoffs, as he did with the Ducks in 2007, he might just convince the Kings, or another organization, to meet his price tag.

3. Cue Game 2 -- In the first round of these playoffs, the team that won the second game went on to win the series five out of eight times, continuing a trend since 1987 that saw the Game 2 winner capture the series 70 percent of the time, regardless of the Game 1 outcome. The Kings are on a bit of a roll when it comes to the second playoff game, winning their past three dating back to 2010. Only in this postseason’s first round did they win the series, however. The Kings are even more impressive in their recent road playoff games, winning their past six away from Staples Center. It’s safe to say another win in St. Louis would put the Kings in great position to advance.

4. Power-play standoff -- In four regular-season games against the Kings and one playoff meeting, the Blues are 0-for-17 on the power play. The Kings have one of the best penalty-kill units in the league, but they can’t be perfect forever. That means the Kings need to find a way to produce with the man advantage, as well. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 to fall to 3-for-31 during the postseason, making their mediocre 16.9 percent success rate during the regular season look fabulous. To their credit, the Kings set up their power play effectively in Game 1, and held possession for long stretches in the offensive zone, so it seems more likely the Kings will get on track before the Blues.

5. Quick, Quicker, Quickest -- After two failed attempts at leading his team through the first round, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is not only playing as advertised this postseason, he’s the main reason the Kings have won five out of six playoff games. Quick, one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's top goalie during the regular season, has allowed just nine goals and saved 95.5 percent of the shots he has faced. Opponents must feel like they need to be perfect with their shots, and that’s probably why Scott Nichol shot wide of an open net early in the second period when Quick was caught out of position following a deflected puck in the slot.

Kings: Jonathan Quick, Dustin Penner lead way in Game 1 victory

April, 28, 2012

Western Conference Semifinals

Game 1

Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Home ice doesn’t belong to the St. Louis Blues any longer, just as it was stolen from the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings took care of that Saturday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis behind two rare playoff goals by the defense, a bank-shot empty-netter by Dustin Penner in the closing seconds and another stellar performance by goalie Jonathan Quick.

THE STAT: The Kings have won six consecutive playoff games on the road and are 8-2 away from Staples Center over the past three postseasons. This is the fourth consecutive playoff series in which they've taken away home-ice advantage in the first two games.

TURNING POINT: With 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining in the second period and the score tied at 1, Kings rookie winger Dwight King checked St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the back, and Pietrangelo went forehead-first into the boards behind the Blues' net. Pietrangelo appeared to be bleeding, but King was given only a two-minute boarding penalty, rather than a five-minute major and game misconduct. On the ensuing faceoff, St. Louis forward David Backes won the draw, but his pass backward went off his skate, just enough to throw off defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. That allowed Kings forward Dustin Brown to take off a stride ahead of Shattenkirk. Brown’s shot attempt was stopped by goalie Brian Elliott, but Brown appeared to clip Elliott’s right pad as he skated by, knocking the netminder off balance while the puck lay in the crease. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came up from behind the play with no one defending him and shoved the puck past Elliott before he could recover for a 2-1 lead. It was Greene's first career playoff goal in his 36th game. The goal also was just the second short-handed goal by a Kings defenseman in franchise history. The other belonged to Rob Blake in 1993. To make matters worse, Pietrangelo, the team’s best defenseman and leader in ice time during the regular season and playoffs, did not return to the game.

HOT: Quick turned aside 28 shots for his fifth playoff victory in six games this postseason. No save was better than the three straight he kicked aside off the stick of Blues forward Andy McDonald when the game was still scoreless in the opening minute. Quick has allowed just nine goals in the six playoff games and has stopped 192 of 201 shots for a lofty save percentage of .955.

NOT: The Kings scored their third short-handed goal of the postseason, the same number they’ve produced on the power play. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 against the Blues, including one stretch during the second half of the game in which they had the man advantage for eight minutes out of 8:47. They now are 3-for-31 on the power play during their playoff run. As for the Blues, Shattenkirk had a night to forget. Not only was he burned on the Greene short-hander, but he committed a delay of game penalty in the third period, just after the Blues had killed a four-minute power play. He was on the ice for all three goals, resulting in a minus-3 rating.

GOOD MOVE: Penner was given a promotion from the third to the second line late in Game 5 (the series-clinching victory) against the Canucks, and coach Darryl Sutter stayed with that lineup against the Blues. Penner obliged by setting up the first goal, holding the puck as he weaved below the goal line and then passing out front to rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, who hit the open side for his first career playoff goal and the first postseason goal by a first-year Kings defenseman since Alexei Zhitnik in 1993. Penner’s bank-shot empty-netter looked straight out of a billiards match, as he shot the puck from deep in his own end, off the wall near the red line and straight into the middle of the net with 14 seconds left in the game.

BAD MOVE: About two minutes before Greene’s goal, the Blues had a golden opportunity to break the 1-all tie when David Perron drove at the Kings' net. As he made his move, the puck went off the shin of L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty and was left in the slot with Quick out of position as he followed Perron across the crease. Scott Nichol skated in all alone but tried to be too fine with his shot and sent the puck just wide of the open side of the net.

NOTABLE: For the third consecutive year, the goalies with the top two goals-against averages in the regular season went head to head in the playoffs. ... The Kings had 44 goals by their defensemen during the regular season, the most by any team in the NHL except the Nashville Predators. ... When the Blues scored first during the regular season, they finished 34-8-3 for the sixth-best winning percentage in the NHL. The Kings were 9-23-7 when allowing the first goal, the third-worst winning percentage. ... St. Louis tied the Detroit Red Wings for the best home record during the regular season.

UP NEXT: Game 2, Monday in St. Louis, 6 p.m. PT.

Kings: Willie Mitchell notches game winner vs. Blues

November, 22, 2011
Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings battled back from a slow start Tuesday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and received the game winner on a rare goal by veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell with 5 minutes 49 seconds remaining in regulation.

THE STAT: In his most flawless game in a Kings uniform, Mike Richards assisted on the first goal to tie the score, 1-1, then scored early in the third to give the Kings a short-lived 2-1 lead. Just as impressive, Richards won his first 15 faceoffs before losing his final draw with 1.5 seconds remaining. Richards has seven goals in his last seven games.

TURNING POINT: Less than two minutes after the Blues tied the score, 2-2, on a goal by Vladimir Sobotka with 7:32 left in the game, Mitchell received a pass from Simon Gagne near the point and shot it toward the St. Louis goal. The puck deflected off St. Louis center Scott Nichol in transit and flew past goalie Jaroslav Halak with Kings forwards Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams providing screens. It was the 25th goal of Mitchell’s 12-year career and his seventh game winner.

HOT: Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier got the nod over Jonathan Quick and he kept the Kings in the hunt after allowing a goal on the first shot of the game. In just his fourth start this season, Bernier stopped 23 shots, none better than the one he turned away from Patrik Berglund after he took a pass while alone in front of the net with 4:40 left in the second period.

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Kings: There may be no recovering from this latest fall

April, 22, 2011

LOS ANGELES — Kings coach Terry Murray called it the turning point of the game. A more accurate description might be the point of no return.

The Kings and San Jose Sharks were locked in a scoreless battle Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series at Staples Center. Then defenseman Drew Doughty didn't like the way Scott Nichol made a run at him in the defensive zone and turned and barked at the fourth-line center.

Nichol charged at Doughty and both soon came together in a shoving match, earning two-minute roughing penalties for each.

Less than a minute later, the Sharks scored the game's first goal after a missed scoring opportunity at the other end for the Kings. Just like that, the floodgates opened and the Sharks scored twice more in the next 5 minutes, putting the Kings in a hole for good in what turned into a 6-3 loss at Staples Center.

The loss gave the Sharks a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series that resumes Saturday in San Jose. One more defeat and the Kings will be looking at another long offseason.

“They scored two goals on a four-on-four, but up to that point it was a pretty good game,” Murray said. “Give Nichol credit, he’s the reason that they won tonight.”

Murray also referred to the double-minor high-sticking penalty Nichol drew after the Sharks took their 2-0 lead. The Kings nearly killed the ensuing four-minute power play, but Ryane Clowe scored with 32 seconds remaining on the man advantage and the Kings were suddenly looking at a three-goal deficit.

The Kings made a late push later in the period to cut the deficit to 3-2, but the Sharks scored twice in first 3 minutes of the third to put them back down by three goals.

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Kings: Sharks lead, 3-2, after another wild second period

April, 21, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 4 (San Jose leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)

After the 2nd period:

San Jose Sharks 3, Kings 2

The good: After blowing a four-goal second-period lead in Game 3, the Kings started their own comeback from three goals down. Brad Richardson beat San Jose goalie Antti Niemi to a loose puck after Ryan Smyth sent a shot on net from the boards and swept it into the net to trim the score to 3-1 with nine minutes left in the period. It was Richardson's second straight game with a playoff goal after scoring just seven during the regular season. The Kings then made it 3-2 with just under four minutes remaining. Justin Williams recovered a loose puck in the neutral zone, raced down the left side and passed the puck to Smyth coming down the slot. The puck deflected off the stick of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the net, giving Williams his second goal of the series.

The bad: With Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and San Jose center Scott Nichol serving roughing penalties after a brief scuffle near center ice, the Kings had a good chance to take a 1-0 lead while playing 4-on-4. Michal Handzus passed the puck from behind the San Jose net to Dustin Brown in the slot but Brown whiffed, sending the Sharks off on a 2-on-1. Vlasic passed to Ryane Clowe on his right but the puck was out of reach. Clowe chased it down in the right-wing corner and sent a cross pass that skidded past the front of the net but went off the stick of Kings rookie defenseman Alec Martinez and past the goal line. That seemed to break the seal as the Sharks scored twice more in the next 5 minutes to take a 3-0 lead.

The in between: Maybe Jonathan Quick can just skip the second period next game. Quick shut out the Sharks in the opening period for the third straight game but seemed to lose his focus after San Jose got on the scoreboard. Quick has allowed eight goals in the last two second periods. If another gets by, the Kings will have a tough time coming back.