Warrior Kings renounce Devils, sweep road trip

Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the winning goal late in the third period as Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils looks away during their game at the Prudential Center on January 31, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game 55: Kings 3, Devils 2

If there was a make-or-break stretch in the schedule through the whole season, the past five-game road trip would be it. Games in Detroit, Toronto, Boston and ending in New Jersey.... Many fans would've been happy with a 3-2 record.

Especially the game against New Jersey, the top team in the Atlantic Division, the least scored on team in the NHL at 2.18. Basically, the Kings would have to play their best game of the season to beat Martin Brodeur and the Devils. On less than 8 hours of rest.

Oh yeah, the most important yardstick game thus far to measure the Kings against one of the NHL's elite teams is the second of back-to-back games this weekend. Adding to the drama, the Kings' Olympic goaltender Jonny Quick has been tabbed to start, after playing a grueling 60+ minutes Saturday night against the Boston Bruins.

So, when the Devils leapt out to a two-goal lead, fans weren't surprised or disappointed. Common sense dictates that the Kings would drop the final game of the 2010 Grammy Evacuation Tour.

But there's a reason why they play the games rather than deal with probables. And the team has done time and time again this season, the Kings responded. And once again, it was Quick who shined the brightest, outplaying his counterpart on the other side of the rink, thwarting NJ attempt after NJ attempt.

It was MIchal Handzus' goal that got the puck started, so to speak. When he scored amidst the Kings' 10-shot performance in the second period, momentum shifted to the Left Coast.

Not that Jersey didn't put up their own herculean effort in the third. Led by Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, the Devils pumped 14 shots at Quick, the same amount they had in the first two periods. And Quick shut them all down.

When Wayne Simmonds got the puck at the 18 minute mark to the side of Brodeur, he backhanded it on net to see if he could create a rebounding opportunity for Ryan Smyth, whose ass was firmly trying to block Brodeur. What Simmonds did was score an unlikely goal through the smallest of chinks in Brodeur's armor to tie the game.

"I threw it at the net, just hoping (Smyth) would get a tip or have a great screen," said Simmonds.  "And he did. He had a great screen, and Brodeur pulled off the post a little, and it just squeaked in.”

This stunned the Devils, not entirely sure how to attack the three-headed monster now coming at them in waves. And it was a mistake by Andy Greene, who tripped up Anze Kopitar to give the Kings recently-resurgent power play a chance to go ahead.

"Their penalty killing has been great," said Kings coach Terry Murray. "And they’re the lowest penalized team in the league. So that, I guess, was a little bit of a surprise for me, that there was a penalty with a minute left in the game."

So the stage was set. The Kings hadn't scored on three previous power play opportunities in the game. Running on fumes from playing back-to-back brutal contests, muscles aching, the Kings took to the ice. And it was one of the biggest warrior kings of them all, Drew Doughty, who was able to get a double screen from Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth, shot the puck from way downtown, past Brodeur for the go-ahead goal with less than a minute left in the game.

All the Kings had to do was play keep-away from the Devils to ensure their very first 5-0 road trip in franchise history. And as the buzzer sounded, the Kings hopped over the boards, albeit a little slower, to congratulate Quick on his 31st win of the season, putting him in a three-way tie with Mathieu Garon and Felix Potvin.

Five of the next six games are back at Staples, with the one road game up the 5 Freeway to play the Ducks. For now, the Kings will catch up on their sleep and hopefully readjust to Pacific Time before their game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

• AP: Kings rally in final 1:46 to win 6th straight
“It’s not like we are winning games on accident,” said U.S. Olympian Jonathan Quick(notes), who made 26 saves. “We’re sticking to the system and doing all the little things right. Everyone is contributing and sticking up for one another. You catch bounces and win games like that when you play like that.”
• LA Times: Kings enjoy the perfect ending
"Five-and-oh is something different. Especially to get that one off back-to-back nights," said Simmonds, who was hoping for a rebound when he threw the puck on net from the left-wing boards and was probably as surprised as anyone in the Prudential Center when it eluded Brodeur at 18:14.
• LA Kings.com: Comeback Kings
The victory, stunning in its own right, had deeper significance. It allowed the Kings to finish 5-0 on a road trip for the first time in franchise history. It pushed their overall winning streak to six games, their longest since 2001-02 (coincidentally, also the last season in which the Kings made the playoffs). It pushed their road winning streak to seven games, one short of the franchise record set 35 years ago.
• NHL.com:  Late rally helps Kings go 5-0 on trip
Looking like the battle-tested and resilient playoff team they are striving to become, the Kings scored twice in the final 106 seconds Sunday to earn a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over New Jersey at the Prudential Center and finished off their first 5-0 road trip in franchise history.
They said it
“Right from the start of the road trip, if somebody would say, `You guys are going to be 4-1,’ I think everyone would pretty much take that. Being 5-0, it’s obviously great. I think now it’s time to bring that attitude and energy at home, because we’ve got to start winning some home games too.” – Anze Kopitar, on finishing the road trip 5-0
“When you’re down two in the second, you don’t feel like you’re out of the game. Quite a few times, we’ve come back from two-goal deficits, and we’ve had extremely successful third periods. So there’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind on the bench. We know that if we stick to doing the little things correctly, we’ll catch a bounce here or there, like we did tonight.” – Jonathon Quick, on the Kings’ ability to rally.
“It’s very impressed. First of all, because it’s the New Jersey Devils, who really have played very well this year. Best goals against in the league. Their penalty killing has been great, and they’re the lowest penalized team in the league, so that, I guess, was a little bit of a surprise for me, that there was a penalty with a minute left in the game. – Terry Murray, on an impressive comeback

Zach Parise battles with Jonathon Quick at the net in Sunday's game between the Devils and Kings. William Perlman/Star-Ledger
Around the Kingdom

• The Throne Room: Marty Who?
To be frank, Brodeur was soundly outplayed by the Kings’ Jon Quick tonight, who made a handful of dazzling saves, including a glove save on Dainus Zubrus after it looked like Quick was down and out that left the entire New Jersey bench stunned.
• HockeyBuzz's Matthew Barry: Kings Sweep Road Trip With Incredible 3-2 Win In N.J.
The key to the 3rd period was a Jonathan Quick robbery of Dainius Zubrus who had a wide open net to shoot at as Quick had fallen. Quick stuck out his glove and miraculously the puck went into it.
• LAKingsNews.com: Kings finish perfect road trip with a 3-2 victory over the Devils
New Jersey would not quit but the Kings looked like a team that would not be denied. While short handed, Jonathan Quick’s glove hand made the save of the night with a sprawling robbery on Zubrus, which Resche called the best “no look save I have ever seen.”
• LA Kings Insider: Going for history
Should the Kings come away with a win, they would have their first 5-0 road trip in franchise history, their first six-game winning streak since March 11-23, 2002, and they would also push their road winning streak to seven games. The franchise record is eight games, set from Dec. 18, 1974-Jan. 16, 1975.
From across the aisle, the New Jersey viewpoint

• NJ.com: L.A. Kings score twice in final two minutes to hand NJ Devils 3-2 loss
Right now coach Jacques Lemaire doesn’t know what to say to his players. “I have to talk to myself first,” he said. “That’s a big loss I haven’t digested.”
• NJ.com: NJ Devils coach feels Martin Brodeur could've stopped Kings' tying goal
But during Sunday's loss to the Kings in which the Devils allowed two late goals, Lemaire said he thought Brodeur could have stopped the tying goal from Wayne Simmonds. It was long a backhander that hit the goalie's pad and went in.
• In Lou We Trust: New Jersey Devils Blow Lead in Heartbreaking Loss to the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2
The Devils blew their lead and the game late, turning what could have - what should have - been a win over LA, into an extension of the Kings' winning streak (now at 6).  This actually happened in front of a nearly full crowd (all the tickets sold, though) and from my view in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5, I was shocked, stunned, and frozen in silence.
• Fire And Ice: Devils’ problems protecting late leads resurfaces
“It stings any time you give up late goals, but when you can’t recover and get the two points or even a point in overtime, then definitely it’s a lot more disheartening,” defenseman Mike Mottau said.
• Snowman On Fire: How to beat the Devils
The Devils have gone from mildly upsetting to tragic. It’s Shakespeare on ice without the clever anachronistic puns. It hurts to watch, like the guy who wipes out on the ski jump slope during the intro to “Wide World of Sports” for those of you alive in the 1970s.
Peeping the dailies


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