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Johnson Dramatics, Quick Records All in a Night for Kings

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Last season in their 12th game of the season, the Kings played perhaps their best-played game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a 1-0 battle with a Justin Williams goal scored in the sixth minute of the final period. It was a game of hard hits, good puck movement, great goaltending, good defense. That was the point where the Kings potentially doing damage in the playoffs went from rhetoric to an actual probability.

Fast forward one year, I was really hoping tonight’s game against the surprising Western Conference leading Dallas Stars would be one of those well-played games. It wasn’t although the Kings did win also by the margin 1-0.

Head coach Terry Murray agreed that assessment.

“I thought the game itself was a little broken up. Both teams had their moments. The flow was going: all of a sudden something would happen where there was chaos and misreads.”

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The best way Murray described it: “There were other times when it was like a tennis match in between.”

Things looked really bad in that first period when the Stars couldn’t hold on to the puck for a good stretch in the middle of the period. It made me wonder how in the hell they were able to be so good early in the season with a 6-1-0 record for 12 points.

I soon got my answer. Of the 26 shots the Kings attempted in that period, the Stars defense blocked 13 of them.

“I think if we play that way the rest of the way, we’ll be all right,” Stars’ defenseman Alex Goligoski said.

But just because the game was a bit sloppy, it was still a memorable game.

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It all came down to a faceoff in the Dallas zone with just over five minutes left. Mike Richards controlled the puck and dished it off to Rob Scuderi at the left point. Scuderi got the puck to Jack Johnson standing at the right point who shot it past Andrew Raycroft for the goal.

“We talked about it beforehand,” Johnson said. “Richards had said how he wanted to win it back. It was a setup play that worked out.”

It was Johnson’s third game-winning goal of the season after coming into the season with none. Coming off of a season where he had a -21 rating, Johnson is now posting a +4. However Murray isn’t noticing any significant changes to his game from last season.

“He’s about the same. If you go back to the start of the year last year, he was one of the top scoring defenseman in the NHL. His game was tremendous, playing big minutes for us. That’s where he’s at right now.”

It bears noting that for a good chunk of that play last season, Drew Doughty was either missing from a concussion or fighting through the aftermath of the concussion. Doughty has missed his third game of the season after a hard hit in Philadelphia that injured his right shoulder.

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“He’s really elevated his game with the unfortunate injury to Doughty,” Murray said about Johnson. “He’s taking on more and really responded very well to the challenge. I hope he keeps that going when we get a full lineup again.”

And although Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been getting most of the attention with the Stars’ fast start, it was Jonathan Quick who came up big.

With less fanfare, Quick came into the game with 0.97 GAA (second to only Edmonton’s Nikolai Khabibulin) and having shutouts in his last two games with a 128:10 scoreless streak. With 3:14 left in the game, Quick broke Rogie Vachon’s franchise record of 184:55 scoreless streak set in 1975.

And after keeping the remaining 3:14 clean for the Kings, Quick became the first Kings goalie to post three consecutive shutouts and the first in the league to do so since Columbus Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason in December 2009.

As always, Quick wasn’t going to toot anything.

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“It feels great to have that done, but at the end of the day it’s one game. It’s a long season, and we’ve got to keep the momentum going into Tuesday night.”

And that will be the rematch against the New Jersey Devils that the Kings lost 2-1 in a shootout on Oct. 13.

But for this game Quick did a good job of recapping the game.

“That was an extremely physical game. That third period was very intense. There was a lot of emotion. A very very big goal by JJ in the end. I’m glad we got two points and, more importantly, they didn’t get any points pushing it to overtime. That was huge.”