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Quick Holds, Vaults Kings to First Place in Pacific Division

This is what the Kings and Kings' fans hope to see a lot at the STAPLES Center this season. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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Of course it would come down to a battle between the NHL’s top goaltenders. St. Louis Blues’ Brian Elliott and the Kings’ Jonathan Quick did not blink once throughout regulation and overtime. It was two five-hole goals by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the shootout that lifted the Kings to first place in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining in the regular season.

“It feels good for the night anyways,” Jarret Stoll conceded after the game with a Eurotrash version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” bumping in the dressing room.

The fact that the Kings actually got the two points for the win was like a prayer after that first period. They were outshot by the Blues 12-3, and the fact that Quick was a wall in the crease was nothing short of miraculous.

“Everybody in here knew what needed to be done,” Anze Kopitar said who have five shots on goal in the second period after recording only one in the first period.

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“We weren’t happy with our first period,” head coach Darryl Sutter said. “They come at you hard. It ain’t for little boys in the first period.”

It looked like it was going to be another one of those games for the Kings, the game that forces me to question why I love watching this game. Then I realize the Kings came into the game winning their last five games, their best streak since 2010, and that any long winning streak was improbable especially against the team with the best record in the NHL.

Then the next 40 minutes made me realize why I love this game. Nothing short of artistry in the creases on both sides of the rink, great clean hitting, great defense that forces the scant scoring chances be majestic.

Take what may go down as Quick’s save of the year on Jamie Langenbrunner as time was winding down in regulation. Quick’s right side was completely exposed. But as Langenbrunner took his odd-angled shot that looked sure to go into the vacated zone, Quick rolled onto his back lifted his glove into the air and like magic the puck found its way safely in Quick’s glove.

“I was trusting the defensemen to take the back doorway,” Quick said. “All he really had was an off-angled shot. I was trying to take away everything that he could be seeing and was fortunate to get a piece of it.”

With a scoreless tie heading into the shootout both Quick’s 35 saves and Elliott’s 37 saves earned each of them a shutout. The shutout ties Quick with the league lead in shutouts and ties him with Rogie Vachon in the 1976-77 season for the Kings’ single-season record. The Kings have won six in a row and surely look to be a dangerous team headed into the playoffs.

However any stumble in their remaining eight games can spell doom. The Phoenix Coyotes also have 86 points but fall behind the Kings in seventh place in the West in tiebreakers. The Dallas Stars are a point behind in eighth place tied with the Colorado Avalanche. Also looking in are the San Jose Sharks with 84 points and the Calgary Flames with 83 points.

So to be first place in the division? “That means nothing if we don’t win on Saturday,” Quick said.

And of course that won’t be easy with reigning Stanley Cup Champions Boston Bruins coming to town.

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