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Kings tough out a victory over Chicago Blackhawks

Physical play helps L.A. snap three-game home losing streak.

November 29, 2009|Helene Elliott

With their top line sorely missing Ryan Smyth and their offense sagging, the Kings reverted to the hard-hitting defensive efforts that were so effective for them last season.

That, plus a performance by Jonathan Quick that improved as the tension increased, allowed the Kings to wring out a 2-1 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before an announced sellout crowd Saturday at Staples Center.

After making a season-high 32 saves in the first 65 minutes, Quick stopped a wrist shot by Jonathan Toews and a backhander by Patrick Kane in the shootout.

The Kings got shootout goals from Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson -- with the latter playing himself into strong contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team -- to end a three-game home losing streak and send the Blackhawks back to Chicago with consecutive losses in Southern California after being shut out by the Ducks on Friday.

"The shootout's a completely different animal from the game," Quick said. "As far as the game goes, I think we just battled hard all night. It was a great win."

The Kings mustered only 22 shots against Cristobal Huet in regulation and overtime and made Wayne Simmonds' beautiful second-period backhander stand up until Toews got free in front of the net during a power play and prodded home the rebound of a shot by Kane at 6:56 of the third.

"He started off tonight just feeling his way. A couple pucks were bobbled around," Kings Coach Terry Murray said.

"But he really settled in very nicely and was huge at the end."

That he was.

Quick, who has won three straight shootouts, insisted he doesn't feel more stressed by the meager offensive support his teammates have been providing since Smyth was injured on Nov. 16.

The top line, which on Saturday comprised Kopitar centering for Alexander Frolov and Justin Williams, was blanked again, extending Kopitar's goal drought to nine and Williams' to eight.

But the Kings were able to compensate with a sterling defensive performance and nearly made Simmonds' goal stand up.

Scott Parse, skating up the left-wing boards in his own zone, timed a diagonal pass to Simmonds on the right side. Simmonds left a drop pass for Michal Handzus and headed for the net; Handzus put the puck on Simmonds' stick, and he slid a backhander under Huet's left pad for his eighth goal of the season and a three-game goal-scoring streak.

Quick yielded only the goal to Toews.

"You approach the game the same way whether we're scoring six goals or two goals," Quick said. "You're just trying to make the saves in order to keep the team in there and give us a chance to win at the end of the game.

"With Smitty out, he puts up some big numbers. . . . Sure, that's hurting a little bit but we've got to keep fighting and the team's battling and we've just go to continue the momentum."

They made the momentum go their way by playing a hard, physical game that targeted the Blackhawks' mobile defensemen and skillful but generally small forwards.

The Blackhawks outshot the Kings, but the more important number Saturday was the Kings' 41-25 edge in hits.

"Our most important thing going into the game was getting the forecheck going and hitting the D-men," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "They have some great players back there and we knew we had to finish them so we could stop them from jumping into the play.

"They've got some great forwards there, some of the most skilled forwards in the league. I think we did a pretty good job as a defense. We held them to one goal. Quicker played a great, great game. We just wanted to take the body and not give them too much time or space."

If Quick can sustain this level of play he will get a lot more playing time.

Asked if the 23-year-old goalie might play 70 games, Murray didn't flinch.

"We're going to find out," he said, before conceding he was joking.

What a luxury, to joke about goaltending instead of having the goaltending be the joke.

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