Jonathan Quick held his own in a brilliant goaltending duel with Brian Elliott, posting his franchise record-tying eighth shutout of the season for the Los Angeles Kings, and Jeff Carter scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of a shootout in a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. The Kings took over first place in the Pacific Division with their season-high sixth straight victory. Los Angeles outshot St. Louis 35-32 in regulation.
Los Angeles versus St. Louis would represent a highly entertaining first-round playoff series, and Thursday's regular-season game featuring high shootout drama between the Kings and Blues at Staples Center offered an intriguing potential glimpse into the future. Playoff scenarios shift almost by the minute these days, and this night in the Western Conference was no different.
The Kings started the morning in eighth place and skyrocketed to third in the West by virtue of taking the lead in the Pacific Division, which means possession of the third-seeded spot.
They have eight games left before they secure a spot, but the Kings took a massive stride forward with their 1-0 shootout win against the Blues, needing four rounds to finish it off. Scoring for the Kings in the shootout were Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and goalie Jonathan Quick stopped the Blues' Chris Stewart in the fourth round.It was Quick's eighth shutout of the season and the victory was the Kings' season-high sixth in a row. To even get to the shootout, the Kings had to kill off a penalty in overtime when Justin Williams went off for tripping.
"We didn't have the start we wanted, but we bounced back in the second period and controlled the game for the most part," the Kings' Anze Kopitar said. "Our penalty kill has been good all season and it's come up big in the key moments." An understatement, to be sure. Despite a slow start by the Kings, the game picked up momentum, almost by the minute, and looked like a playoff preview. There was hard hitting, periods of poised puck possession and stellar goaltending by Quick and his Blues counterpart Brian Elliott.
Elliott, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.62 goals-against average, faced 37 shots. Quick made 35 saves and perhaps his biggest one in the third period came when he robbed Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner. Quick, on his back, reached up and made a terrific glove save with Langenbrunner trying to finish off a two-on-one.
The Blues were in a back-to-back situation, having lost 4-3 at Anaheim, and were down one defenseman for a sizable portion of the game after Carlo Colaiacovo suffered a lower-body injury late in the second period and did not return. He suffered the injury in a collision with the Kings' Dustin Brown and went back-first into the post, also receiving an interference penalty on the play. The playoff history between the Kings and Blues is remarkably sparse. St. Louis has never lost a playoff game to the Kings, sweeping all four games in 1998 in the first round and four in 1969 in the second round.
It has been such a long time since the teams met in the playoffs that Larry Robinson was coaching the Kings the last time they played the Blues in postseason. Andy Murray would go on to coach and depart from both the Kings' and Blues' organizations since then. At least a first round between those teams could be called the Andy Murray Bowl. Obviously, a much better option would be hanging on to that No. 3 spot and avoiding the Blues.