Kings beat Stars 3-1
It's not great for the blood pressure, but the Kings have identified a winning formula.
Essentially, it goes as follows. Limited opponents' scoring chances. Clean up rebounds. Make a smart first pass out of the defensive zone and limit neutral-zone turnovers.
After that, bite, scratch, claw and do anything and everything necessary in an attempt to get the puck into the net. When executed to plan, it's rarely pleasing to the eye, but it's usually effective, and the Kings followed the formula quite well on Saturday afternoon.
The Kings took a huge step toward clinching a playoff spot, as Matt Greene
's third-period goal lifted them to a 3-1 victory over Dallas before 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
``We're obviously without our top two scorers right now, so you've got to crash and bang the net to get results,'' said Kings winger Wayne Simmonds
, who scored the Kings' first goal. ``In the playoffs, a lot of the goals, a lot of the deciding goals, are caused by crashing the net. I think that's the type of attitude we have to have, just go to the net strong with our sticks on the ice, and we'll be successful.''
After grinding another win out -- Dustin Brown
added an empty-net goal in the final minute -- the Kings are on the cusp of making the postseason for a second straight season. The Kings actually moved into fourth place in the Western Conference, but in the short term, the other end of the standings is more relevant to the Kings.
Saturday's win ensured that Calgary will not be able to pass the Kings this season. Any single Kings win or Dallas loss, over the final week of the season, will ensure that the Kings will finish no lower than eighth place in the conference. The Kings will clinch a playoff spot if the Stars lose to Anaheim in regulation on Sunday night.
``It's a huge game. It's a huge game for us,'' Greene said. ``We want to keep climbing. We want to keep getting points as we're closing out the year here. Nothing is official, so it's huge games from here on out. It doesn't matter what the standings are. Against these guys, they're always going to be hard games, so it doesn't matter.''
Kings coach Terry Murray echoed Greene's sentiments, and seemed pleased with his team's effort, just two days after the Kings failed to record a shot on goal in the third period of a loss at Vancouver. This time, the Kings outshot the Stars 10-8 in the third period and got the game-winning goal.
``This was a very, very big game for both of us, certainly for Dallas,'' Murray said. ``They're staying alive, trying to stay alive. You knew that they were going to give their very best. You could see the way they used their best players, a lot of minutes. They put them out in different combinations, coming back with them every second shift.
``This was an important game. Like the month of March, every game that we've been involved in, it's been a playoff-like attitude, compete. It was a great win by the group of guys in that locker room today.''
The playoffs now seem inevitable for the Kings. The question is, can they continue to ride their goaltending, defense and gritty offense to any postseason success?
Minus the high-level talent of injured forwards Anze Kopitar
and Justin Williams
, the Kings on Saturday turned to a lunch-pail first line of center Brad Richardson
and wingers Kyle Clifford
and Simmonds, and Simmonds came through with a goal.
``We're all lively legs,'' Simmonds said of his new line. ``We like to get on guys and I think we read well off each other. We're always in support positions for each other and close to each other for cycles, and obviously that works out well.''
Simmonds deflected Willie Mitchell
's slap shot past Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen to give the Kings a 1-0 lead 4:15 into the second period. Dallas' Brad Richards tied the game just 1:13 later, and the Kings' defense held up, then contributed the winning goal.
With 7:10 remaining in the third period, Greene smacked a puck from near the right boards, and the puck deflected off Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski and into the net. The goal was Greene's second of the season.
``Goals are tough to come by this time of year, so you take it any way you can, off skates or whatever,'' Greene said. ``You're just trying to throw pucks to the net, and you never know what can happen.''
Once again, Jonathan Quick
came through with a solid effort (24 saves) and he finished with a 4-0 record against Dallas this season, and allowed only six goals in four games.
``Both goalies made the saves when they had to,'' Kings center Jarret Stoll
said. ``It was a tight-checking game. It was a hard game to play. We just found a way to do it again, we just found a way to get the points, and that’s all that matters.''
Fittingly, shots were even at 12-12 in a goal-free, penalty-free, well-played first period that included a handful of strong scoring chances for both the Kings and the Stars. Then, once again, the Kings scored a goal, then allowed one within two minutes.
The Kings took a 1-0 lead 4:15 into the second period. Trevor Lewis
passed to the right point to Mitchell, who wound up for a slap shot through traffic. Simmonds tipped the puck and Lehtonen made the stop, and as the puck trickled behind Lehtonen, Stars defenseman Mark Fistric tried to chop at it but instead pushed it over the line, and Simmonds got credit for the goal.
The lead lasted only 73 seconds, though. Brad Richards took a pass from Jamie Benn and beat Quick with a shot from the right circle to tie the game 1-1, 5:28 into the second period.
That's where the game stayed until Kings took a 2-1 lead with 7:10 remaining in the third period. The puck was rimmed around to Greene on the right side, near the boards, and Greene shot it. The puck deflected off Goligoski and into the net. Simmonds and Clifford picked up assists.
``How about that?'' Murray said of Greene's goal. ``He gave us a couple last year and we got used to it. We want more. He can shoot the puck. Give him some time, he will get the puck to the net. He's got a heavy shot. A lot of work went into that. When you look at both the first and the second goals, there was a lot of good work by the forwards, recovering pucks, holding onto it, good composure, moving our feet to just create a passing line and find the top. Then you get it to the net. Good things can happen.''
|Three star selections