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Kings take 1st in Pacific by beating Blues 1-0

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Their stay at the top of the Pacific Division might not last long, but it was well-earned for the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

Jeff Carter scored in the fourth round of a shootout and Jonathan Quick stopped Chris Stewart as the Kings vaulted into first place with a 1-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center.

Carter slipped a wrist shot five-hole on Brian Elliott. Quick allowed only one goal in the shootout and recorded his eighth shutout this season and 22nd of his career.

The Kings could have dropped to ninth in the Western Conference with a loss after Phoenix defeated Colorado. They could easily drop back out of the top eight in the crazy, daily standings jumble, but savored their status at the top of the division after prevailing in a tight, hard-hitting battle that extended their winning streak to a season-high six games.

It's a considerable leap from their 15-14-4 start before coach Darryl Sutter arrived.

"Even though we had our rough spots throughout the year so far, I think everybody in this locker room - we all believed in ourselves," Quick said. "We knew we were a good team. We're coming on at the right time."

The matchup of the NHL's two stingiest defenses played out as expected -- Elliott made 37 saves in regulation and overtime. Quick made 35 and backstopped a penalty kill in overtime.

"I tip the cap to Elliott," Quick said. "He played unreal down at the other end and made some big saves to keep them in it … we got two points here. We need to get that every time we come out. That's our goal and we got that tonight so we'll enjoy it for another couple of minutes and then we're going to move on for Saturday against Boston."

Both sides had excellent scoring chances in the third. Quick made a sliding glove save on Jamie Langenbrunner with 2:40 to go in regulation.

"I was just trusting the d-men to take the back doorway and they did a good job of that," Quick said. "All he really had was an off-angle shot. I was just trying to take away everything he could be seeing."

Earlier, L.A.'s Kyle Clifford fed a pinching Willie Mitchell, but the pass was slightly behind Mitchell and he couldn't put it under Elliott.

The Blues lead the overall standings with 101 points, two more than Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers. St. Louis turned in a much better effort than Wednesday's loss to Anaheim but it was a tough point to lose. The Blues have gone 97:49 without scoring a goal for Elliott.

"We got a point here but we can't be happy with it," Elliott said. "But we have just got to put it in our back pocket and move onto the next game. … It's a hard-fought game. It's always disappointing when you don't get the two points, but when you come here on the road it's a tough building to play (in). They're playing well."

It was appropriate that Carter scored the game-winner. The Kings are the highest-scoring team in the West since they acquired him from Columbus a month ago, but they couldn't break through Elliott despite taking back the game with a strong second period in which they outshot St. Louis 17-9.

Anze Kopitar grabbed a Blues turnover in the slot and broke in on net but Elliott outwaited him. St. Louis had a terrific chance on a rush during 4-on-4 play but Patrik Berglund shot wide.

St. Louis came out with purpose and took a 12-3 shot advantage in the opening period, and it wasn't really that close. L.A. was outshot 12-1 through the opening 17 minutes, and was mostly kept to the perimeter.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, who was noticeably irritated after Wednesday's loss, felt better about his team's performance in a game that saw the clubs combine for 86 hits. The Blues had been outscored 6-1 in the third period of their previous four games.

"We competed high," Hitchcock said. "It was an even hockey game. We competed at a very high level. If we can build on that, there's a term you use all the time … you've got to play well and lose before you can start winning again. So hopefully we're at that state and we can build on this."

Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period when he ran his back into the post as he interfered with Dustin Brown. The play might have prevented a goal as Brown was in position to finish Kopitar's rebound, and L.A.'s ensuing power play lasted only 58 seconds.

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