|Patrick O'Sullivan's second period penalty shot put the Kings up 3-0. |
Walking into the Los Angeles Kings locker room Saturday night, you were greeted by the sounds of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and players singing along to it.
At first listen, it sounded like 20 men crooning in varying degrees of off keyness, as if in their own private karaoke contest.
But that's not what it was. Rather what the sound in the room was the sound of a winning team.
In an 82-game season, there are wins and then there are wins. The Kings victory Thursday night in Washington and Saturday night's 3-1 triumph over the Devils at The Prudential Center, fall into the latter category.
A LOOK AT THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
Saturday's win guarantees that the Kings will finish this five-game road trip with a winning record, highlighted by the consecutive triumphs against legitimate Stanley Cup contenders Washington and New Jersey. As vital are the two points the Kings gained, coupled with Edmonton's 8-3 loss to Detroit earlier in the day, the Kings are now two points out of the Western Conference's 8th seed. The Kings have 53 points.
"We're shooting to make the playoffs. We know you have to play very well to get yourself in there. Guys are responding. There's a great locker room in there. They care for each other and it's carried onto the ice," Terry Murray said in the hallway outside of the Kings dressing room.
TONIGHT'S KEY: FORECHECK
Throughout the season, Murray has been preaching a heavy forechecking system.
Saturday night, his coaching paid off as the Kings forced New Jersey into repeatedly committing obstruction penalties.
"I think we did a pretty good job on our forecheck. We wanted to get pucks in and establish the forecheck early and we were doing that," said Murray. "We were kind of following the way things were set up in the pregame: Get it in, get on top of their defense and make good reads with your two and three."
Jarret Stoll's 13th goal of the season, at 10:23 of the second, broke open what had been a scoreless match to that point. With Devils center Brian Rolston in the box for elbowing, Stoll took a pass from Michal Handzus on the half boards and hammered a slap shot from the point that rolled off of New Jersey defenseman Johnny Oduyas stick and past goaltender Scott Clemmensen.
"I think I had a couple guys in front--maybe three with their guy--and I was just trying to hit the net (on) the power play," said Stoll of his fourth goal in his last six games. With the helper, Handzus earned a point for the fourth straight game.
The Kings kept pressuring the Devils. Two minutes after Stoll's score, New Jersey forwards Zach Parise and Brian Gionta collided behind Jonathan Quick's net and the Kings counter attacked, finishing with an Anze Kopitar redirection of a beautiful centering feed from Patrick O'Sullivan to increase the lead to 2-0.
"Transition game is a lesson I think I learned from the New Jersey Devils over the last 15 years. They're one of the best transition teams in the game. You have to have good defensive posture, and when you do, maybe you get lucky and knock the puck down and you get back on the attack right away," Murray said. "With three skilled players (Kopitar, O'Sullivan and Alex Frolov) entering the offensive zone, and they made a good play. Maybe we got a little bit lucky with that pass in the air but it was a big goal."
SULLY SEALS IT
O'Sullivan's penalty shot goal at 14:37 pushed the advantage to 3-0. The third-year left wing had been awarded a penalty shot after Devils defenseman Mike Mottau closed his glove on the puck while it was in the crease.
It was the Kings first penalty shot goal of the season after missing two previous attempts and the Kings first successful penalty shot since Alexander Frolov scored vs. Andrew Raycroft at Boston on Jan. 12, 2006.
The goal broke a span of five-straight penalty shots being denied. Kings Penalty Shots
O'Sullivan skated towards Clemmensen, made a subtle move and let a wrist shot fly. It beat the Devils goaltender with a wrist shot low to the stick side. For all intents and purposes, even with 25:23 remaining, the game was over.
"I just tried to do the same thing I do in the shootouts: take my time, let the goalie make the first move, pick the right side and luckily it went in," said O'Sullivan of his 13th goal of the season. It was also his second penalty shot of the season as Columbus' Steve Mason stopped his penalty shot attempt on Dec. 6. "That's what I usually do in shootouts. A couple quick stick handles and the blocker side was open."
Compiled By Denis Gorman | Special to LAKings.com