Los Angeles Kings managed to do something on Wednesday night that no other visiting team that's come to the United Center in the month of December had done: They beat the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation.
Backed by a sterling 38-save shutout performance by goalie Jonathan Quick – whose dad was in the stands as part of the team's fathers' trip – the Kings left the Madhouse on Madison with a hard-earned 2-0 victory against the Hawks, who'd won five straight on home ice coming into the game and had a 6-0-1 record at home this month.
It was also the first time the Kings had beaten the Blackhawks (23-10-4) in regulation in the last 11 meetings.
"That took four lines, six (defensemen) and a goalie," said Quick, who made 18 saves in the third and now leads the League with five shutouts. "I thought we were outplaying them in the first two periods and getting the better of them – and because of which we jumped up to a two-goal lead. You know when you come into this building it's just a matter of time before they get that kind of pressure (they got in the third). That's a talented group over there. We're fortunate to weather the storm and get out of here with two points."
Chicago's Corey Crawford also had a fine game, making several highlight-worthy stops on the way to a 36-save performance, but Trent Hunter and Jarret Stoll both found the back of the net for the Kings
Both goals were hotly contested by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who thought there was goaltender interference that wasn't called on Hunter's goal midway through the second period and an uncalled slew foot on Stoll's marker 1:16 into the third.
"I thought both their goals should have been whistled down," Quenneville said. "Both goals should have been called something -- infractions on both their goals … but we still had a lot of chances at
the other end and unfortunately you're not going to win the game when you don't score a goal."
Quick had a lot to do with that being the case. Despite his team-oriented comments while assessing credit for the win, the Kings goalie was the first star of the game for being the biggest reason Los
Angeles is heading to Winnipeg on Thursday with two straight wins and a 3-0-1 record under new coach Darryl Sutter.
"He was unbelievable," Hunter said of Quick. "He's done that for us all year. You look at the way he played tonight and he was just a wall in there. He's been solid all year, but he played unbelievable again tonight."
Quick made key saves in all three periods, but saved his best for the third – when he stopped all 18 shots he faced, including two quick ones against Jonathan Toews midway through the period with
his pad and skate at the right post.
He also spearheaded a big penalty kill late in the third, which made the Hawks 0-for-4 with the man advantage for the game and was L.A.'s 20th straight power-play kill.
"Actually, the Los Angeles Kings for the last two years have been awesome (on the penalty kill)," Sutter said. "The best part of their game has been their penalty kill when you look at it. I haven't done
(anything) to it quite honestly. I just used two or three different guys, but they're so well-schooled in it that they just go by example and away they go."
Both teams needed good penalty kills in a scoreless first period that was marked by special-teams play. Both goalies came up with big saves to thwart several great scoring chances and the Hawks let the Kings off the hook a couple of times by missing the net while uncovered.
Crawford came up big to help the Hawks kill off nearly six straight minutes of power-play time for the Kings in the first, after Los Angeles got a four-minute man-advantage midway through the period on a
high-sticking infraction by Sharp that came on the heels of John Scott's roughing minor.
In all, the Kings went 0-for-3 on the power play in the first and 0-for-4 for the game, while the Hawks weren't any better with their two extra-man situations in the first 20 minutes.
It was more of the same in the first half of the second period, with the goalies continuing to put on a show to stop good scoring chances. Crawford's side-to-side pad save to stop a close-range tap from
Richards to Trevor Lewis midway through was the highlight of the period, but shortly afterward the Kings' fourth line finally broke the scoreless tie on Hunter's goal at 12:07 of the second.
That was the play Quenneville thought should've been called goaltender interference, as the puck was knocked loose from a sprawled Crawford's grasp in the blue paint and scooped by Hunter – who pulled it back and lifted it into the net. But no penalty was called and the grinding goal stood to give the Kings the lead. Hunter credited the hard work of former Blackhawk center Colin Fraser and forward Kyle Clifford for their work in the blue paint.
"Those two guys did a great job of getting to the net," Hunter said. "I just threw it there and they were able to keep it alive banging and crashing away. I kind of looped around the net and it was laying
there. It definitely wouldn't have happened without (Clifford) and (Fraser) in there causing havoc and keeping the play alive. They worked really hard all night."
Crawford wasn't shaken -- he kept it a 1-0 game with a big save at 16:38 after Mike Richards was awarded a penalty shot when he was taken down on a breakaway. That's the way it stayed into the second intermission, but the momentum was short-lived for Chicago thanks to Stoll's rebound goal that made it 2-0.
On that play, Quenneville took issue with what he thought was a slew foot of Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy by Justin Williams near the goal. Once again no call was made and the goal stood.
Quick and the Kings defense took over from there, keeping the Hawks at bay despite a late onslaught of shots by the home team.
"It's disappointing we couldn't find a way to take advantage of some of those chances at the end, but it is what it is," Toews said. "Give (Quick) credit. He's a good goaltender. He was making some big stops out there that … we felt that the puck just wouldn't go in tonight and that trend kept going in the third period. It's frustrating when they don't go in. When you get shut out at home, you don't want to lose that way."