Bernier outshines Stars as L.A. saddles Dallas in shootout again

L.A. Kings goaltender Joanthan Bernier makes a pad save on Dallas Star left winger Jamie Benn in the sixth round of the shootout Friday night at Dallas. Andy Jacobsohn / DMN Photo Staff

Game 66: Kings 2, Stars 1

O.K., lets get it out of the way.

Jonathan Bernier was tremendous in his debut Friday against a team the Kings have absolutely dominated this season. Even though he admitted to be nervous, he certainly didn't play that way. He made 29 saves in regulation, and blanked Dallas in the shootout. he was also named the first star of the game, in his first start of the season. He was good.

As for the rest of the team, they continue to show signs of struggling as they acclimate to one another during this crucial stretch run. In addition to getting Bernier in net, the Kings welcomed Justin Williams back into the fold Friday, and was immediately put on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth. That line was together for 18 games this season, and had 23 goals and 38 assists. Let's hope that continues as Williams gets up to speed.

Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll, left, scores a shootout goal against Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco (35) during an NHL hockey game, Friday, March 12, 2010, in Dallas. The Kings won 2-1. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
As long as they keep getting points, I won't stress. Just because they haven't made the playoffs since 2002, and teams like Phoenix and Vancouver continue to play well, should be no reason to worry that the Kings should fall out of playoff contention. Other than the fact that they have dropped three of the last five games is no reason to panic. Who's panicking? Not me. No way. NEVER!

Back to reality, the Kings did not play well Friday. Other than Fredrik Modin redirecting a Dustin Brown shot in the first period for a power play goal, the Kings looked to be playing without a lot of fire. Then again, the Dallas are playing for their playoff lives, so maybe that overshadowed the Kings' effort.

The Stars seemed to be on the verge of scoring all game. In the second period, seemed out of sync, forcing Bernier to stand on his head. He even lost his stick during a penalty kill, using a defenseman's until killing off Dallas' man-advantage.

One thing is for sure, the Kings' penalty kill is markedly better, and have killed off their last 12 penalties. And in one game, the Kings jumped from 21st to 18th on the PK.

Bernier had made 21 saves in the first two periods, and looked to be a steel trap. But a defensive mistake broke the shutout. That and someone in the newsroom saying the dreaded "s-word" moments before Brenden Morrow scored to tie it up. And for the second time in two games, the game would go to overtime. The Kings could only muster one shot, but Bernier turned away all three shots to head to the shootout.

Normally, the Kings are money in the shootout. But that was with Jonny Quick in net. What's the deal with Bernier, I wondered aloud as I watched the game online. A quick check of the stats showed he had lost all five shootouts for the Monarchs. Facepalm.

But he was wonderous in the exhibition, making save after save. He got some help from the posts and crossbars, but that's why they are such close friends. And in the sixth frame of the shootout, Jarret Stoll went five-hole to beat Marty Turco and clinch the game for L.A. It's the second time the Kings have beaten the Stars in the shootout this season, and are 5-1 in the skills competition in the last three seasons.

The win finds the Kings tied for third (!) in the Western Conference. How long that will last is beyond me, since Vancouver can finally play at home, after being kicked out of General Motors Place for some international sport thingy. Can you believe the Canucks have been on a 14-game road trip? Can you imagine what their equipment smells like? (Yes, I know. This is the NHL, not some beer league team. But still, not playing at from Jan. 27 to March 13? There's got to be something stinky in their bags.)

If Vancouver didn't have to be away for 45 days, what would the top of the West look like? As of right now, the Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks have all scored 220 goals on the season, with the 'Nucks playing one more game. That's incredibly tight.

• AP: Kings forward Stoll helps rookie goalie Bernier end personal drought
Jonathan Bernier lost all five shootouts he was involved in this season for the Manchester Monarchs in the American Hockey League.  The rookie goalie ended that personal drought on a much bigger stage.
• LA Times: Goalie Jonathan Bernier shakes off nerves in a hurry in Kings’ win over Stars
Jonathan Bernier made four saves and got help from a post and the crossbar in a six-round shootout to lead the Kings to a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Friday, but not until afterward did Coach Terry Murray realize that his goalie, pressed into service after Jonathan Quick returned to Los Angeles for the birth of his daughter, was 0-5 in shootouts this season with Manchester of the American Hockey League.
• LA Kings: Bern-ing Stars
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.
• NHL.com:  Bernier, Stoll lead Kings to 2-1 SO win over Stars
Bernier was brilliant in the shootout, making sliding saves on Loui Eriksson in the second round, Mike Ribeiro in the fourth, and Jamie Benn in the sixth. Mike Modano had the best shootout chance for Dallas, hitting the right goal post in the fifth round.
They said it
“I was nervous at first. 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.” – Jonathan Bernier, on having any nerves
“It was a great pass by Brownie. 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.” – Fredrik Modin, on his goal
“Not bad. 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.” – Matt Greene, on getting three of four points on the road trip
“Well, this was a game in hand against Phoenix, for us, and it ties us now with them, even in games. So the two points were very big. Your goal is to make the playoffs at the start of the year, and each time you are able to put a point up — two points tonight — it’s heading toward accomplishing your goal.” – Terry Murray, on a big win in the playoff race
Kings left winger Fredrik Modin heads to celebrate with teammate Dustin Brown after deflecting in his shot for the game's first goal. Andy Jacobsohn / DMN Photo Staff
Around the Kingdom

• LAKingsNews: Jonathan Bernier wins his 2010 debut, 2-1, in a shootout
I was surprised when I saw Jonathan Bernier in net, not because he hasn’t earned the start but because of the experience of Erik Ersberg and the message it may sent to him. If ever the ends justified the means within a hockey game, tonight’s matchup against Dallas was it.
• HockeyBuzz's Matthew Barry: Kings Beat Stars With 2-1 Shootout Win
The Kings are ranked 6th on the power play at 20.3% - Their PK, which was dead last earlier in the season has climbed to 18th and has only allowed 1 pp goal since Modin and Halpern arrived.
• Jewels from the Crown: Jonathan Bernier
The Kings looked back on their heels to me. Stats show that they did a lot of things right (few giveaways, more hits, decisive face-off advantage), but I don't think I can remember a single Kings scoring chance after their first period goal. Dallas seemed on the verge of scoring for most of the last forty minutes, and probably deserved a better fate. But instead the Kings managed to turn a one-goal performance into a win.
• ProSportsBlogging's Eric Cooney: Hawks Top Kings In OT, Kopi Thoughts
The big Slovenian is quietly one of the best centers in the league, slipping into a veritable black hole of recognition.  He is the only NHLer from his nation.  He plays in the non-traditional LA market.  He isn’t boisterous or controversial.  Nor is he, to be honest, particularly flashy.  Kopitar is just a good solid franchise player. 
From across the aisle, the Dallas viewpoint

• Dallas News: Kings top Stars in shootout, 2-1
 "The good news is we didn't give up five goals tonight, so that's a positive sign," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I think we've got to keep bearing down defensively and try to be a little better, and try to limit the turnovers.
• Star-Telegram: Dallas Stars find defense, but fall in shootout
The two points given away don't bother Dallas too much, as they aren't going to catch the Kings, 40-22-5 (85 points), but only getting one point on the first game of a crucial six-game homestand might end up biting the Stars, who are trying to catch Detroit, Nashville and Calgary in the race for the final playoff spot.
• Defending Big D: Improved Effort From Stars Still Falls Short in 2-1 Shootout Loss
The offense was pretty solid as well - which I know seems kind of silly to say in a game where only one goal was scored and we've spent the last two weeks harping on how this team needs to score more than once per game - but tonight was more about Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier who was in goal and did a fantastic job of keeping the puck out of the net in place of regular starter Jonathan Quick who was back in L.A. with his wife and newly born baby daughter.
• Andrew's Dallas Stars Page: Stars open homestand with 2-1 shootout loss to Kings
Offense was an issue on this night. Cracking Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, who was making his first NHL start since October 2007, for more than one goal was a difficult task. Bernier stopped 29 of 30 shots in regulation and overtime and then was 6-6 in the shootout in just the fifth start of his NHL career.
Peeping the dailies

 

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