CHICAGO – One point, out of a possible two, in a mid-March game against one of the NHL’s top teams. Was it satisfactory for the Kings on Wednesday night, or not?
Opinions were mixed after the Kings dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Kings weathered an offensive storm for parts of the game and earned an important point, but missed a chance at two points.
The way the game ended left the Kings with a sour taste, no doubt.
The Kings killed a penalty that extended to the start of overtime, but just over two minutes into the extra session, Kings winger Brad Richardson dropped a pass in the neutral zone, intending it to go to a defenseman who was not there to get it.
Instead, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp picked up the puck and, with nothing between him and the net, skated in and beat Jonathan Quick with a wrist shot to end the game.
``I just kind of reacted to what he was doing,’’ Quick said of Sharp’s second goal of the game. ``He made a good play and he beat me there.’’
With the point, the Kings remained in fifth place in the Western Conference with 16 games to play. A point-per-game average for the rest of the season would certainly put the Kings in the playoffs, and with Wednesday’s effort they were able to get one point on the road against one of the NHL’s top teams.
But was it satisfactory, or did the thought of missing out on the second point sting? Opinions seemed to be mixed in the Kings’ dressing room. A sampling:
Team captain Dustin Brown said, ``We'll take it. We want two, but at this point in the year, you take whatever you can get. I thought we battled hard. One mistake and it's in our net, but mistakes happen in the game. If we don't make that mistake, maybe we go to a shootout and win, but we battled hard. It just didn't go our way.''
Quick said, ``Well, you can never really be satisfied with one point, especially with the time of year it is. Points aren't going to come easy, so you want to get them whenever you can. The team played great. We played a great game. That's a strong team we went against, and we battled well. It's unfortunate that we only got one point out of it.''
Coach Terry Murray said, ``At this time of the year, all of the points are very good. You'd like to get the other one out of this one. That would be very nice, but when you get down to the final 20 games of the season, any point you can put on the board, especially on an away game in a very tough building to play in, is a point we'll take.''
The Kings and Blackhawks played a fast-paced game, one in which Chicago held a 43-30 edge in shots but in which the Kings did a fairly solid job on defense.
Quick played his best game since the Olympic break and made 41 saves and the Kings killed all four Chicago power plays, including a lengthy 5-on-3 in the first period.
After Sharp’s goal, 2:34 into the first period, the Kings settled down, and actually took the lead in the second period on goals, 1:52 apart, by Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar (on the power play). Kris Versteeg’s goal tied the game just 1:35 after Kopitar’s goal.
An entertaining third period yielded no goals, and the Kings seemed on their way to a shootout – where they had been strong this season – until Richardson’s overtime turnover led to Sharp’s game-winning goal. 2:08 into overtime.
``Well, several things happened on the play,’’ Murray said. ``It's a transition play. One of our D is jumping (up) and the second defenseman is coming behind him. That's just a read that you have to make. You have to stop and you've got some responsibilities away from the puck. Then the attempted pass is something you'd like to not see.
``A backhand pass through the middle of the ice is a hard one to make. I know what his intentions were. They were good, but just on the other side of it, on the checking part of it, we want to make sure that one defenseman is doing his job defending.’’
The Kings fell to 1-2 against Chicago this season, with next Thursday’s game at STAPLES Center remaining between the teams.
Entering the game, the Blackhawks led the league in fewest shots allowed per game, with a 24.2 average. The Kings were second, at 27.4 shots per game.
Moments after Ryan Smyth hit the goalpost at one end, Chicago took a 1-0 lead 2:34 into the game. Adam Burish's wraparound attempt ended with the puck in front, and Sharp pounced on the rebound and beat Quick from close range.
Chicago was outshooting the Kings 12-5 late in the first period, but the Kings did manage to kill all 1:41 of a Blackhawks 5-on-3 advantage midway through the first period.
The Kings tied the game 4:58 into the second period after a strong penalty kill. Sean O'Donnell made the play happen by keeping the puck in the Chicago zone at the blue line. He pushed it in deep, and Brown picked it up and scored on a wraparound to beat Antti Niemi.
The Kings took the lead less than two minutes after they tied the game, on Anze Kopitar's power-play goal at the 6:50 mark. Drew Doughty's cross-ice pass found Kopitar at the top of the right of the right circle. Kopitar paused and fired a wrist shot that beat Niemi.
Chicago tied the game just 1:35 after the Kings took the lead. After a scramble in front of the net, Versteeg controlled a rebound, and with Quick prone on the ice, fired a close-range shot, which deflected off Quick and into the net at the 8:25 mark.
``I thought we played a pretty good game,’’ Brown said. ``Quickie played really well for us. I thought we played a pretty solid game. We scored two goals in the second, but I think that, overall, they had a lot of O-zone time. After they got their second goal, they kind of dominated the second half of that period. But it was back and forth.
``Like I said, they're a high-powered offense. I'm not sure if we have quite the same offense they do, but we definitely have a sound defense. That was a fun game to play in.’’
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