LOS ANGELES – All season long, the Los Angeles Kings have been making the kind of strides that befit a team with playoff aspirations. A solid defensive effort against the high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks was another significant step.
Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson scored in the first two rounds of a shootout and Jonathan Quick stopped both Chicago attempts, leading the Kings to a 2-1 victory Saturday night. Quick finished with a season-high 32 saves, and Wayne Simmonds scored early in the second period.
“We did all the little things today and it paid off in the end,” Quick said. “The team played great in front of me, blocked shots and cleared out rebounds. It was a good game, and we just have to build off of it.”
The Kings spent the final 1:02 of overtime killing off a hooking penalty against Drew Doughty and then went to work against former Los Angeles goalie Cristobal Huet.
Kopitar faked Huet to his left before sliding the puck between his legs, then Johnson made an identical move before flipping the puck over Huet’s glove. Quick stopped Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the other end.
“I thought the whole team played well tonight, but without Quick we definitely wouldn’t have won the game,” Doughty said. “We are all confident in him. He is the starter for a reason. He’s been making all the saves at the right times.”
Michal Handzus was off serving a holding-the-stick penalty when Toews tied it with 13:04 left in regulation. Quick stopped Kane’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle, but Toews beat Matt Greene to the rebound.
“I thought the third period was our best of the game and it put ourselves in a pretty good spot,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve been on the road for a while and at the end of trips, traditionally teams look like they’re looking for the finish line, but I like how we competed and we were determined about trying to get something out of it.”
The Blackhawks finished their annual trip when the circus comes to Chicago at 4-1-1, their best showing since 1990-91 (5-1-0).
“We’re not going to say we’re satisfied, but all in all you can say it was a good road trip,” Toews said. “We’re kind of disappointed about not coming up with two points tonight, but we’ve proven that we can win on the road again this year and it’s a big step for us.”
Simmonds got his eighth of the season at 2:41 of the second period. He carried the puck along the right boards, left a drop pass for Handzus, headed toward the net, got a perfect return pass from Handzus at the edge of the crease and beat Huet with a backhander between the pads.
Simmonds has scored the Kings’ first or only goal in three consecutive games, including Thursday’s 4-1 loss at Vancouver. He nearly won it with three minutes left in overtime, when his 20-foot wrist shot got a piece of Huet’s glove and trickled just wide of the right post.
“He looks like he did the last 10 games last year. He’s really jumping and he’s got a lot of power in his game,” coach Terry Murray said. “Going to the net the way he did tonight to score that goal, he’s just showing us that he’s maturing and that he wants more. I love what he’s doing and I love his attitude.”
Chicago came in averaging the fewest shots on net allowed (24.2) and Los Angeles had the second-fewest (26.3). The Kings, who had a season-low 18 shots on net against Huet in a 4-1 loss that started Chicago’s winning streak, had 22 this time.
NOTES: Blackhawks C John Madden lost all nine faceoffs he took during the first two periods and 13-of-17 overall. He had won 48.9 per cent of his faceoffs entering the game. … Toews, who led Chicago last season with 34 goals, has three in his last 10 games after missing the previous six because of a concussion. … Chicago had won eight straight before losing 3-0 at Anaheim on Friday night. The Blackhawks haven’t been shut out in consecutive games since a three-game stretch in October 2006. … The Kings and Blackhawks don’t meet again until March, when they play twice in a span of nine days to conclude the regular-season series. … Huet’s last season with Los Angeles was 2003-04. Since then, 12 different goalies have played for the Kings.