With starting goaltender Jonathan Quick back home awaiting the birth of his first child, Kings coach Terry Murray wanted to take a look at former first-rounder Jonathan Bernier, who's been tearing up the AHL. Bernier gave him a lot to like.
Bernier stopped 29 of 30 shots in regulation and all six shootout attempts before Jarrett Stoll's goal in the sixth round of the breakaway competition gave the Kings a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
"He's a very talented young man and he's worked hard this year to get his game to a good level," Murray said. "The opportunity and the preparation came together here tonight, and I really liked what I saw."
Bernier and Marty Turco combined to stop the first 11 shooters before Jarrett Stoll beat the Dallas goaltender with a wrist shot to give the Kings their fifth victory in five games against the Stars this season.
Though he was a first-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, Bernier was still something of a mystery to some of his teammates.
"I had never seen him play," Stoll said about Bernier. "He's just very calm. I think that's the one thing you can say about him. He doesn't make any extra movements, he doesn't overcommit, he technically looks very sound and it looks like he's in good position all the time. If he keeps playing like that he's going to be a good one."
It was the fifth NHL game for Bernier, but his first since Oct. 14, 2007. He has a 26-18-5 record and 2.08 goals-against average with eight shutouts for AHL Manchester this season -- but had lost all five of his shootouts this season.
"I was nervous at first," he said. "Only one practice, so I didn't know the timing and stuff. I felt better when the game was going on, in the second (period) and much better in the third, for sure."
Bernier stopped the first 22 shots he faced before Brenden Morrow beat him with a quick wrister from the lower right circle 6:29 into the third period. That offset Fredrik Modin's power-play goal with 35 seconds left in the opening period.
Modin, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on March 3, put Los Angeles ahead when he deflected Dustin Brown's pass behind Turco, who stopped L.A.'s other 27 shots. Morrow fired home a pass from Stephane Robidas to tie the game.
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.
Quick has already set a Kings record with 37 victories while playing in 60 of Los Angeles' first 66 games and 19 of the previous 20.
The Kings improved to 85 points, tying Phoenix for fourth place in the West.
"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," Murray said. "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."
The single point gave Dallas 71, six behind eighth-place Calgary. Dallas is 1-4-1 while being outscored 26-13 since the Olympic break after dropping the opener of a six-game homestand that figures to go a long way toward determining whether they make the playoffs. GM Joe Nieuwendyk has said his team needs to win at least five times during that stretch at home to "stay in the mix," leaving little margin for error.
"We're fighting for our lives," Robidas said. "It's like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that's the approach we've got to have every night."
The Stars host Colorado on Sunday in a game that grew in importance after this one.
“We have to take care of our next game,” Crawford said. “The next game is huge, we have to build off our confidence we generated here and use a formula that is similar. We did a lot of good things in the defensive zone. We really protected well. We blocked a lot of shots, we were in lanes. They didn’t get anything easy, which is really positive. And on the other side, I think our offense will be better as we move forward.”
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report