GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When NHL coaches talk about ``rolling fourth lines,’’ it’s usually with fingers crossed, maybe even with a silent prayer. In reality, coaches don’t really expect a ton of contributions from their fourth-line players. Some physical play, perhaps, and some rest time for other forwards.
Occasionally, though, it all comes together and the fourth line shines. That’s what happened for the Kings on Thursday night, as they got a complete effort from all their forwards and put together an impressive 2-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in front of an announced crowd of 7,128 at Jobing.com Arena.
``The contribution was huge tonight from the fourth line,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Right from the first period, their first shifts, they had the energy and the awareness to support each other, getting pucks in, and had good energy stuff going on in the offensive zone.’’
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick
was named the game’s first star, a deserving honor given that Quick recorded his second consecutive shutout (28 saves) and notched his 100th career NHL win.
Quick came up big early, as the Coyotes put forth a formidable first 10 minutes, and was supported by second-period goals from Dustin Brown
-- on the power play -- and fourth-line winger Kyle Clifford
The Kings improved to 4-1-1 this season largely because they never really gave the Coyotes any breathing room. The top three lines were solid but the fourth line, with Clifford, center Trevor Lewis
and right winger Kevin Westgarth
, gave the Coyotes headaches as much as any other unit.
Clifford scored, and Lewis nearly scored on a first-period shorthanded chance. The real kudos, though, went to Westgarth, the Kings’ designated enforcer who played only his second game of the season.
Westgarth logged only 4 minutes, 16 seconds, of ice time, but made it count. His first-period fight with Phoenix’s Paul Bissonnette seemed to give the Kings a boost, and his perfectly executed cross-ice pass to Clifford, with less than five minutes left in the second period, led to a goal and a critical two-goal lead.
The goal was Clifford’s first of the season. The point was Westgarth’s fourth in 68 career NHL games.
Most everything broke the Kings’ way Thursday. They got another power-play goal, courtesy of yet another strong play by Mike Richards
. They went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. They allowed 28 shots but only a handful of quality scoring chances, and Quick looked as sharp as ever.
``If there could be a textbook way for us to play the game, it’s going to be like the last couple games for us,’’ Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi
said. ``(Quick) has made the real big stops when we’ve needed them, but for the most part I think we’ve kept it pretty clean in front of him.
``I thought every line contributed in their own fashion tonight. Everyone plays in different situations, but I thought every line that got out there did exactly what their roles might define. If we do that during the course of the year, I think we’re going to be really tough to beat.’’
Quick became the first Kings goalie since Mathieu Garon in 2006 to record back-to-back shutouts. Quick improved to 4-0-1 this season and has allowed a total of only five goals in five games.
``We’ve been playing some good hockey, the last few games here,’’ Quick said. ``I think it comes from a little bit of team chemistry building. We did the big three-week road trip, and the guys are feeling good. Everybody is loose, everybody is playing well. We can’t get complacent and we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to keep coming out every game with the same hard-work mentality that we’ve had.’’
The Kings had lost three of their previous four games at Jobing.com Arena and the Coyotes, coming off a home loss to Chicago in which they were displeased with their effort, got off to a strong start Thursday.
Quick made a handful of solid saves early and helped kill a Phoenix power play just over five minutes into the game. After that, the Kings seemed to generate some confidence and momentum at both ends.
The solid play finally paid off. A Kings power play carried over to the start of the second period, and the Kings scored 56 seconds into the period. Richards, who has been a power-play force so far this season, fed a perfect centering pass toward Brown, who found himself open at the front of the net.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made the stop on Brown’s initial effort, but before Smith could cover the puck, Brown poked at it and pushed it past Smith and over the line to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
The Kings kept the pressure on, and got rewarded again with 4:37 remaining in the second period.
Westgarth carried the puck out of his zone, up the right side, to start what turned into a 4-on-2 break. Lewis filled the slot while Clifford went strong to the net from the left side. Westgarth’s cross-ice pass found Clifford’s stick, and Clifford fired a short-side shot past Smith to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.
``It always feels pretty good to see one of your passes go in the back of the net after you give it to a guy like Kyle Clifford
,’’ Westgarth said. ``Everybody gets happy and excited when he buries it and celebrates. Everybody is into it.’’
Other than a Phoenix flurry late in the third period -- including a 6-on-4 power play with the goalie pulled -- the Kings did a solid job of controlling the final 25 minutes, and Quick made saves when called upon.
``In the early part of the game, the first period, I think we gave up several quality scoring chances,’’ Murray said, ``grade-A scoring chances, just through that good play of Phoenix and us not managing the puck well enough, just not ready to go emotionally and mentally with the pace of the game.
``Quick stood tall at that time, in the early part of the game, and finally we got a power-play goal and then a tremendous goal by the fourth line.’’