DALLAS – Terry Murray’s eyes widened a bit at the postgame news.
Jonathan Bernier, the goalie to whom Murray had entrusted his team’s shootout fate Friday night, had actually, well, not won a shootout in the minors this season.
Had five chances, lost all of them. Did Murray know that?
``Some things are best not known,’’ Murray said, after a pause, and with a laugh.
It’s known now, as is at least one other thing. Bernier can play at a high level in the NHL, as he showed in the Kings’ 2-1 shootout victory over Dallas at American Airlines Center.
Bernier, a 21-year-old rookie, was called up from Manchester of the AHL on Thursday when the Kings’ No. 1 goalie, Jonathan Quick, returned to Los Angeles. Quick’s wife, Jaclyn, delivered the couple’s first child early Friday morning.
Without Quick, the Kings were in good hands, or more accurately, a good midsection.
Bernier showed good poise throughout the game, maintained solid positioning and rarely allowed rebounds to bounce free in front of his net. Bernier secured most medium- and long-range shots in his midsection and finished with 29 saves.
``I was nervous at first,’’ Bernier said. ``Only one practice, so I didn't know the timing and stuff. I felt better when the game was going on, in the second and much better in the third, for sure.
``I was seeing the puck pretty good, too. They had a few tips, but other than that, it was straight to my chest from the point, so I just tried to control the rebounds.’’
Dallas seemed to come out intending to rattle Bernier, but it didn’t work, and Bernier got stronger as the game progressed. He saved his best work for the shootout, when he stopped all six shots he faced. Jarret Stoll won it for the Kings in the sixth round.
``He's just very calm,’’ Stoll said of Bernier. ``I think that's the one thing you can say about him. He doesn't make any extra movements. He doesn't over-committ. Technically, he looks like he's very sound. He's there, positionally, all the time. Very impressive. ... If he keeps playing like that, he's going to be a good one.’’
Bernier returned to Los Angeles with the Kings after the game, but the strong presumption is that Quick will return to goal, assuming all is well with his new family.
Still, Bernier showed the Kings something. He hadn’t appeared in an NHL game since the start of the 2007, when he was returned to his junior team after a four-game stint with the Kings. His coach, ironically, at that point was current Dallas coach Marc Crawford.
Bernier spent all of last season in the AHL, and this season has become one of the league’s top goalies, ranking high in goals-against average and save percentage.
Murray weighed the pros and cons of starting Bernier, as opposed to Erik Ersberg, who has been the Kings’ backup goalie all season. Bernier made his coach look good.
``He's a very talented young man,’’ Murray said of Bernier, ``and he has worked hard this year to get his game to a good level and having good success. The opportunity and the preparation came together here tonight, and I really liked what I saw.’’
The Kings finished their two-game road trip by earning three out of a possible four points, following their overtime loss to Chicago on Wednesday, and pulled into a tie with Phoenix for fourth place in the Western Conference with 15 games remaining.
``Not bad,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``We felt we did a lot of things in Chicago that we're not too happy about, and we let a point slip away. You go in there and you play a team like that in their building, we felt that we deserved better.
``Just some mistakes hurt us. So, best case scenario is to get two points and three out of four. That's great for us, after losing that point. Going into it, we want to get two points every game, coming through here.’’
Fredrik Modin scored his third goal in five games with the Kings, a first-period power-play goal, which held up as the game’s only score until Dallas’ Brenden Morrow tied the game 6:29 into the third period with an even-strength goal.
The Kings went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and are now 13-for-13 on the kill in their last four games. They’re also 5-for-16 on the power play in their last four games.
``I think we've got to be happy, for sure,’’ Stoll said. ``It would have been nice to get that extra one in Chicago, but they're a good team. We played a good game there, but coming in here and getting these two points was huge. We know how much they needed both points tonight, but we just found a way to get it again.’’
The game also featured the return of Kings winger Justin Williams, who had been out since Dec. 26 – and missed 28 games – with a broken leg. Williams returned to his role as the Kings’ first-line right winger, played 12:15 and recorded one shot on goal.
For a while, it appeared as though the Kings’ first-period lead might hold up.
At the end of an uneven period for both teams, the Kings scored a power-play goal with 35 seconds remaining. Dustin Brown shot from the top of the faceoff circle and Modin, stationed directly in front of goalie Marty Turco, got the tip-in goal. Alexander Frolov also got an assist. The goal came after Turco took a penalty for holding Williams' stick.
``It was a great pass by Brownie,’’ Modin said of his goal. ``He just basically shot it right at my stick and I deflected it behind me. I don't know where it went in. I would assume it might have gone five-hole on him.’’
Bernier made 11 saves in the first period as the Stars tested him often, but mostly with medium- to long-range shots. Bernier made a point-blank save on Mike Ribeiro in the middle part of the period and, earlier, had a puck cleared out of the crease after it trickled behind him. The Kings had 11 shots on goal in the first period.
Bernier made 10 saves in a scoreless second period, and helped kill off consecutive penalties that essentially gave Dallas a four-minute power play early in the period.
Dallas tied the game 6:29 into the third period. Mike Ribeiro set up with goal with some nice puckhandling in the Kings' zone. Stephane Robidas took a pass and, from the slot, fed a quick backhand pass to Morrow, who made a backdoor cut and beat Bernier with a wrist shot from close range.
After Morrow’s goal, Bernier didn’t allow anything else, including in the shootout.
``He did (seem composed),’’ Modin said. ``He made some great saves out there for us, to give us a little extra boost at times. I'm very impressed. He made some huge saves on the shootout as well. Congrats to him.’’
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