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A stylistic, free-flowing game, it was not.
But Thursday's tight game between the Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes hinged on three moments in the third period, and the Kings came out on the right side of all three.
The Kings got a power-play goal from Jarret Stoll, killed a late penalty and got a huge point-blank save from goalie Jonathan Bernier, and those three plays made the difference as they held on for a 1-0 victory before a sellout of 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
How tight are things in the Western Conference, with just more than a month remaining in the regular season? Thursday's win vaulted the Kings past Phoenix and into fifth place in the conference standings. A regulation loss would have dropped the Kings to ninth place.
After two periods of defensive, tight-checking, often-ragged play, the Kings were able to get things going in third period. Stoll scored on the Kings' second power play of the game, with 7:47 remaining. Less than two minutes later, the Coyotes went on the power play but did not record a shot on goal. Finally, Bernier made a point-blank save on Phoenix's Rostislav Klesla with 2:33 remaining, by far the biggest of his 25 saves.
``That's the way it is, isn't it?'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``You get into a big game, it's going to be one play, one pass, one shot, one power play, whatever. It's just the way it is at this time of the year, and the guys really dug down and executed very well on the power play, and then bounced back a few minutes later and had to do the same thing on the penalty kill. So, nice job by them.''
Dustin Penner was a winner in his Kings debut. Acquired on Monday from Edmonton, Penner stepped into a first-line role, alongside center Anze Kopitar, and didn't record a shot on goal against Phoenix but did make his presence felt throughout the game.
Penner recorded a team-high five hits, and used his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame to shield Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on the play that led to the game's only goal.
With 8:28 remaining in the third period, the Kings went on their second power play. Less than a minute later, Kopitar held the puck near the boards on the right side and sent a sharp cross-ice pass to Stoll, above the left circle.
Without hesitation, Stoll fired a slap shot, with Penner running traffic directly in front of Bryzgalov, and the puck cleanly beat the goalie to break the scoreless tie.
``It was a great play by Kopitar,'' Stoll said. ``Any time you've got a broken play on the power play, the penalty kill is usually running around a bit trying to sort themselves out. I try to be ready at any time, because I know he can fire the puck through that seam at any moment and I don’t think Bryzgalov saw it. I think we had both Pens in front, and probably one of their guys, so he probably didn’t see it.'
Stoll pumped his fist and shouted encouragement to Penner -- his former teammate in Edmonton -- immediately after the goal, but the Kings' work was far from done.
The Coyotes had an excellent chance to tie the game when Kings defenseman Matt Greene was called for high-sticking with 6:13 remaining, but the Coyotes weren't able to generate a scoring chance. They had one, though, a few minutes later.
With under three minutes to go, Taylor Pyatt took the puck in deep, toward the right of the net. Pyatt got a half-step on Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, then whipped a backhand centering pass toward the net. The perfect pass found Klesla's stick, but Bernier slid across and was in good position to make the save.
``It was kind of a broken 2-on-1, and my D was pretty close to, I think it was Pyatt who passed it,'' Bernier said. ``So I kind of knew he was going to make that cross pass, and I just really tried to be sharp on my angle and let the puck hit me.''
The Coyotes had some offensive-zone time late, after they pulled Bryzgalov, but the Kings held on, and as the final horn sounded, Kings winger Ryan Smyth picked up the game puck and handed it to Bernier to commemorate his third career shutout.
Bernier's second career shutout came on Feb. 1, but it was far less memorable, as he actually lost the game against the Minnesota Wild, 1-0, in a shootout.
This time, Bernier could celebrate. He got the call to start, somewhat surprisingly, after usual No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick had a rough outing Monday against Detroit. After Thursday's game, Murray said he hadn't thought about which goalie would start on Saturday afternoon against Vancouver, but had solid praise for Bernier.
``Bernier had a real good game,'' Murray said. ``He had some plays coming at him where he worked very hard to find the puck, not only with his blocker and catching glove, but he got his body in front of some shots that were outstanding saves, outstanding reads on his part. Just to stay aggressive, and find and work hard at the end of the game, again, I thought he really was on top of his game. But the guys in front of him played well. It came down to a game of special teams, power play obviously, and the penalty kill.''
Thus, the Kings were able to pick up two points in a game against a close conference (and Pacific Division) rival and, not to be overlooked, were able to prevent the Coyotes from earning even one point by sending the game to overtime with a late goal.
``I think we played a very solid team game tonight, a full 60 minutes,'' Stoll said. ``We did a lot of positive things tonight. We just need to stay with it, stay with the play and stay patient. I think the main thing was staying patient, we knew we were getting our chances and maybe we weren’t getting a lot of shots but we were doing really good things. It was a matter of time. Sometimes you need your special teams to win you a game and tonight they did.''