CHICAGO – The only scoreboard watching the Los Angeles Kings did on Sunday night involved the one hanging above the rink at the United Center.
They eventually outlasted the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a six-round shootout, with Mike Richards scoring the only goal and goalie Jonathan Quick picking up the victory, but didn't find out until afterward the extra point gained was needed to keep pace with the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference.
The Kings (32-25-12) are now ninth in the West after tie-breakers, but they're tied with the eighth-place Flames -- who'd won earlier on Sunday -- and 10th-place Colorado Avalanche with 76 points each.
"Everyone knows what our situation is," said Jeff Carter, who scored one of L.A.'s two regulation goals and had a backhand attempt stopped by Chicago's Ray Emery in the second round of the shootout. "It seems like everyone we're chasing and battling with is winning right now. We need every point we can get. We knew this shootout point was huge and Quickie came up big for us."
Richards did, too, in a shootout that seemed like it might last into double-digit rounds. He wristed one over the outstretched catching glove of Emery to start the sixth round after nearly coming to a halt in the slot and the Hawks couldn't counter when rookie Marcus Kruger lost control of the puck near the net.
Chicago played for the 10th straight time without its captain and shootout ace Jonathan Toews, but the Kings weren't about to feel sorry for the home team. The feeling on the Los Angeles bench, in fact, was more relief than joy -- even though they didn't know about Calgary's win already in the books.
"Especially on the road, it's just win our games and maybe we'll worry about scoreboard watching later," Richards said. "Right now, we've just got to win hockey games."
The Blackhawks (37-25-8), currently sixth in the West with 82 points, know the feeling. They're only four points ahead of seventh-place Phoenix and trail fifth-place Nashville by five.
"You want the two points, but every point's important this time of the year," said Emery, who made 27 saves and allowed just one goal in the first period despite facing 17 shots. "It’s important that we came back from [the early deficit] and important that we got a point."
Emery still hasn't lost in regulation at the United Center as a Blackhawk, with an impressive record of 10-0-2 in 13 appearances here. His shootout record, however, dipped to 1-2 on the season despite stopping three shots and forcing two others wide before Richards beat him.
Chicago also didn't do its goalie any favors in regulation, with a couple of early turnovers leading to prime scoring chances for the Kings -- who deposited one into the net off the stick of defenseman Slava Voynov at 1:17 to cap a 4-on-1 rush.
The Hawks also turned the puck over behind their own net on Carter's goal late in the second to give the Kings a 2-1 lead heading into the third. Offensively, Chicago got a couple of "dirty" goals by Kruger and Patrick Kane, but couldn't convert on several great scoring opportunities in the third -- when they missed wide open portions of the net a couple of times that would've put them ahead late.
Quick had shut the Hawks out two games in a row before this one and had a zero on the board through almost 13 minutes of the second period in this game. It wasn't until Kruger's goal at 12:37 of the second, scored off a rebound of Patrick Sharp's wrister from close range, that Chicago finally got one past Quick (35 saves).
In fact, Quick had stopped 99 of 101 shots he'd seen from the Hawks until allowing Kriger's goal, which tied it 1-1 with 7:23 left in the second. The momentum boost was short-lived, as Carter -- a trade deadline pickup -- unknotted it almost five minutes later with his 19th goal and fourth wearing a Kings uniform.
After Richards muscled Duncan Keith off the puck behind the Chicago goal, he slid a short pass to Dwight King -- who found Carter open in the slot for a wrister that slid under Emery's pads. Los Angeles held that 2-1 lead to start third, but the Hawks put some heavy pressure on to start the final period.
They eventually tied it 2-2 on Kane's marker, his 18th of the season and fifth in the past seven games. Yet again, it was another dirty goal -- scored at 7:36 of the third when Kane swooped in to poke a loose puck under the sprawled Quick after Marian Hossa had unsuccessfully tried to jam it home between the pads.
It also came a little more than a minute after Viktor Stalberg failed to convert on a penalty shot that was awarded after he was hauled down by Rob Scuderi on a breakaway.
Stalberg finished with seven shots, but had a tough night offensively despite assisting on Kruger's goal. He couldn't find the back of the net once, including his backhand attempt that was stopped by Quick in the fourth round of the shootout.
Quick stopped three more in the breakaways and had two other attempts thwarted by the shooters losing control of the puck.
"We got two points, that's all it means," Quick said of the win, which was L.A.'s third against Chicago to take the four-game season series.
"It doesn't matter how we do it as long as we get it. You're trying to make a save [in the shootout]. That's all you're trying to do. It doesn't matter how long it goes. You're just preparing to make a save."
Quick was in a small rut recently, in comparison to how great he's been all season, but just having him in the net for such a big shootout gave his teammates all the faith they needed the longer it went.
"He brings out confidence in the team the whole game with the way he plays, especially when you get down to a shootout like that," Carter said. "One on one, you know he's going to be ready. It's pretty nice."