`He's the reason why we're still alive in the series,'' coach Terry Murray said.
As usual, in the face of mass praise, Jonathan Quick shrugged, praised his teammates and looked ahead the next game. A playoff franchise record 51 saves? Ho-hum.
It was another day at the office for Quick, who bounced back from a couple rough results, turned in a brilliant performance and helped keep the Kings' season alive in a 3-1 victory over San Jose in Game 5 on Saturday night before 17,562 at HP Pavilion.
The Kings trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series, but they're still alive, and they get a chance to extend the series further in Game 6 on Monday night at STAPLES Center.
They get that chance, largely, because of Quick. Yes, the Kings got first-period goals -- on their first four shots -- from Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford and Dustin Penner. Yes, the defensemen played well in front of their net, and the penalty kill game up huge four times.
But without Quick, where would the Kings be? Answer: preparing for exit interviews.
Quick, who allowed six goals in losses in Games 3 and 4, made a handful of jaw-dropping saves, including two in the third period with the Kings holding a two-goal lead. San Jose's Logan Couture, all alone in the crease, hit Quick in the chest with a shot, then Quick made a diving, arm save on Patrick Marleau late in the third period.
There were a few nervous moments for the Kings after Marleau scored 5:43 into the second period to make it a 3-1 game, but Quick wasn't beaten again. Afterward, he was asked if he was aware that he had set the playoff single-game playoff record for saves.
``No,'' Quick said. ``All that matters is that we get to play another game. So we're focused on Game 6 right now, and that's all we're worried about right here.''
That left teammates and coaches to give Quick his much-deserved kudos.
``Unbelievable,'' Greene said. ``He's been lights-out for us the whole year. A game like this, coming up here when they have all the momentum, you needed a big effort out of him, just like he's been giving us all year. Obviously he did it tonight.''
if nothing else, the Kings have forced the Sharks to do what they didn't want to do: get on a plane Sunday afternoon and try to close out the series in Los Angeles. Now the Kings' challenge, odd as it might sound, is to play as well at home as they have on the road.
Because while home is where the heart it, playoff wins seem to be found on the road.
In what has been a wild series -- once in which the road team has won four of five games -- the Kings will need to win another win to stay alive, but at least they have rediscovered the formula for success, the one they followed early in the series but veered from in losses in Games 3 and 4, which put them on the brink of elimination.
Unlike in Game 3, when the Kings built a 4-0 lead in the second period, only to lose 6-5 in overtime, there was no collapse in Game 5, in large part due to Quick but also due to a strong penalty-kill unit that went 4-for-4 against the dangerous San Jose power play.
The biggest kill, arguably, came late in the second period, and the Kings also killed two third-period power plays. The Sharks generated shots on goal by the dozen, but the were much better defending the front of the net than they were in the previous two games.
``We had to keep the puck out of the middle of the ice,'' Simmonds said, ``and I think they had 52 shots tonight, but I think a lot of them were from the perimeter. That was pretty much our game plan. They're obviously dangerous from the middle of the ice.''
On the other side, Murray juggled his line combinations but left one line intact: that of Brad Richardson centering Kyle Clifford and Simmonds. It turned out to be a wise choice.
That line, which has arguably been the Kings' best since it was put together late in the regular season, contributed to the first two goals, as Simmonds scored at the 3:36 mark and Clifford scored at the 7:14 mark. Penner, who had been in danger of being a healthy scratch, scored a huge goal t the 8:42 mark to give the Kings a 3-0 lead and his line, that included Jarret Stoll and Kevin Westgarth, also had a notably good effort.
It's the Richardson-centered line, though, that has kept the Kings in this series.
``They've been good,'' Murray said. ``They're young, they're energized, they're enthusiastic. They really like to play with each other. When i first put that line together and it had a couple games under their belt, that was a meeting I had with them. That was the topic of conversation, of how much they enjoyed to play the speed, the tempo game, to play hard for each other. It's been a good series for them so far. I feel confident.
``They have my trust. I put them out there against the big line. They're pretty responsible on the checking part of it, but really high-energy on the offensive side, recovering pucks, moving, creating opportunities for everybody. So it was a solid game by them, and it's great to see your young guys step up in a pressure situation like this.''
The Sharks controlled the pace of the game in the opening minutes, but the Kings got on the scoreboard first, 3:36 into the game, on their first shot on goal. Rob Scuderi took a slap shot from the left point, and the puck deflected off Clifford, then Simmonds, and past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
``Our line, and I think the rest of our team, we kind of woke up a little bit,'' Simmonds said. ``We realized, obviously, that we were in for one. We were lucky to score on our first shot, and we just tried to follow up from there.''
The Kings took a 2-0 lead 7:14 into the first period, as Richardson's line struck again. This time, Richardson forced a neutral-zone turnover, then fed Simmonds for a 2-on-1 break. Niemi saved Simmonds' shot, but Clifford knocked in the rebound for his second goal.
Penner's goal, 8:42 into the first period, gave the Kings a 3-0 lead and chased Niemi from the game. Penner took a nice pass from Westgarth and slapped a rolling puck in the high slot, and the shot deflected off the skate of Sharks defenseman Ian White and into the net.
Antero Niittymaki then replaced Niemi, who allowed three goals on four shots.
San Jose got on the scoreboard 5:43 into the second period. Quick made the stop on Niclas Wallin's shot but appeared to lose track of the puck for a moment, and Marleau fought off Kings defensemen Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell in front to poke the puck into the net and narrow the Kings' lead to 3-1. Joe Thornton also picked up an assist, after forcing a turnover.
But that was all Quick would allow.
``Jonathan Quick has always had the ability to come back with a real solid game,'' Murray said. ``He has bounced back after goals that he wishes he could do over again, or even a game. He's always had that, from the first time that I had him as a player in the NHL.
``We needed him here tonight. There's no question. They were going to come out with emotion, with energy. They [the Sharks] were going to put a lot of pucks to the net, to close this series out, and at the end of the day, he's the difference. He's the reason why we're still alive in this series.''
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