CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings were desperate.
Already down two goals against the Chicago Blackhawks midway through Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday at United Center, the visitors knew they could not allow another goal if a rally was in the cards.
"Give up three against them, you're in trouble," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said afterward.
Yet the Kings were on the verge of allowing that backbreaking third goal. They were a mess in their own end, unable to get out of their own way.
Chicago was using its speed to push the Los Angeles defenders back, its patented stretch pass creating prime scoring chance after prime scoring chance. At one point, top defenseman Drew Doughty was caught by television cameras smashing his stick against the boards while he sat on the Kings bench. It was an outburst Doughty later admitted was the result of how lackluster the Kings' own-zone play was for the first 30 minutes of the game.
But Jonathan Quick, the Kings' all-world goalie, did what he does perhaps better than any other goalie in the NHL: He kept the Kings within striking distance, including with a game-changing save against Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook at 12:43 of the second period.
"That was a big save," Kings forward Tanner Pearson said. "It kept us in there. It could have been a game-changer. That gave us the momentum."
Less than six minutes later, the Kings scored a fluky goal, Mike Richards banking a pass off the skate of teammate Justin Williams, allowing the puck to trickle through the legs of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
The Kings scored five times in the third period on their way to a 6-2 victory that changed the complexion of this best-of-7 series, which is tied 1-1.
By handing Chicago its first loss at United Center this postseason, the Kings salvaged an unlikely split and seized home-ice advantage when the series switches to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
On the flight home in the early hours of Thursday, Quick will get more than a few hearty congratulations from his teammates, many of whom were still amazed that their goalie found a way to deny a seemingly sure goal by Seabrook on perhaps the most dangerous of the Blackhawks' many odd-man breaks.
Chicago forward Kris Versteeg carried the puck into the zone with Seabrook to his right. Versteeg made a beautiful saucer pass to hit Seabrook in stride. The defender had half a net to shoot at, but as he snapped his wrists, the opening disappeared in a sliding blur of white and black.
"He just passed it across; Seabrook is a right shot, so it was a different angle than if it was a one-timer opportunity," Quick said. "Just trying to get over to the post. [I was] fortunate to get a piece of it."
When it comes to Quick, he readily makes his own fortune, often benefitting the Kings in the process.
"That's just a prime example of him being himself," Doughty said of the save against Seabrook. "It was a huge save for us."
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews admitted it was a huge save after the game, but argued that it did not dictate the outcome of the rest of the game.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville argued his team was good at 2-0, even after the disappointment of not getting a third goal on that chance. He liked the game his team was playing, at least through the first 38 minutes.
But neither understands fully how these Kings feed off the brilliance of their goalie.
"Obviously, we all know what [Quick] brings to our team," said forward Jeff Carter, who had a hat trick in the third period. "We're down 2-0, 2-1, he's making saves like that. If we don't go out there and give it our all, try to get that next goal, we're letting him down.
"He saves our butts a lot. I guess we're happy that we could help him out tonight."
The Kings have made many in-game comebacks this postseason. After reviewing virtually every one on film, many Kings say they can point to one or more saves made by Quick that kept the game at a manageable state.
"Lots. Lots," Kings forward Jarrett Stoll responded when asked how many times Quick allowed the Kings to find their footing and rally this postseason. "He's so athletic; he is going to make those saves sometimes. That's what you need. You need those big saves to win a game. The Seabrook one was an example of that tonight, and we found a way to win in the third."
And now the Kings are no longer desperate.