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Kings Prolong Clinching Playoff Berth As Long As Possible

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Two stinking points - that’s all the Kings have needed since after their Saturday afternoon victory over the Dallas Stars to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season. After they got the snot beat out of them in San Jose on Monday to the tune of a 6-1 loss, the Kings tortured the sold-out STAPLES Center crowd of 18,118 into the shootout. But they prevailed with a 3-2 win to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season.

“It was a must win game,” head coach Terry Murray said. “We wanted to win the game in regulation or in overtime. But certainly in the shootout Jonathan Quick is outstanding.”

Heading into the game goalie Quick had a 9-0 record in the shootout. And despite this game being a clinching game, Quick claimed ignorance.

“I didn’t know it,” Quick said when asked if he knew the clinching situation. “I try not to pay attention to that stuff.”

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So no added pressure going into this particular shootout?

“You’re trying to beat the team you’re going up against and helping your team win.”

After Michal Handzus scored a wrister off of Coyotes’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and Quick stopped Eric Belanger, Jarret Stoll scored the clinching goal to give the Kings the victory and (for now) fourth seed in the Western Conference. Stoll echoed Quick’s denial of pressure.

“I didn’t think of it if there was,” he said when asked if he felt any added pressure considering it was a clinching situation and all. “I just wanted to go in, be confident, make my shot and go back to the bench with the boys.”

Fox Sports West’s sideline reporter Heidi Androl called bullshit on it, but Stoll continued to hem and haw.

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“I don’t know,” he laughed. “I didn’t think of it. When it went in I was pretty happy.”

Stoll also led off the scoring in the first period with his 20th goal of the season - the sixth King to score 20 goals which hasn’t happened since the 1992-’93 season where they happened to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.

That was all set up by captain Dustin Brown who travelled down the length of the ice pirouetting around the Coyotes’ defense before dishing the puck off the Stoll across the crease at 12:21.

“Brown has stepped up since the injury to [Anze] Kopitar and [Justin] Williams,” Murray praised. “There’s a need for your best players to be your best players.”

But anyone who has followed this team knows the obvious concern: giving up a goal within two minutes of scoring one. The Kings didn’t disappoint in this when Taylor Pyatt made a centering pass from behind the net to Lee Stempniak in the slot to get it past quick at 14:00.

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The duo would create a role reversal three minutes later when Pyatt got the rebound off of Stempniak’s shot from the left circle that rebounded off of Quick. Pyatt just dinked it past Quick giving the Coyotes the 2-1 lead at 14:00.

Of course this wouldn’t be easy.

“Tonight was a night everybody had to step up,” Murray said. And he certainly got that with the line of Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds who constantly pressured the Coyotes.

“We all get on the forecheck really hard,” Clifford said. “They’re good energy guys”

The young Clifford was rewarded with tying goal with just under three minutes remaining in the second period.

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“That’s a glimpse of the future,” Murray mused. “He’s an amazing kid. There are so many times he has tried to set the tempo and change things around with going out and challenging guys, fighting. And then he scores some big goals.

“I’m real happy for him. This is a wonderful finish to a big game tonight for him.”

The Kings end the season with a home-and-home series against the Anaheim Ducks: Friday night at the Honda Center and Saturday night at STAPLES Center. Win both, they get clinch the fourth seed and get home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Any other result can have them fall as far as the eighth seed.

And here’s something that is pretty amazing: one more win and the Kings will have 100-point season in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.