One goal was worth a jump of three rungs in the playoff race for the Los Angeles Kings
L.A. rebounded from a poor defensive showing against Los Angeles three nights earlier with an airtight performance against the Phoenix Coyotes. Jonathan Bernier stopped all 25 shots he faced and Jarrett Stoll scored a power-play goal with 7:47 left in regulation for a 1-0 victory on Thursday night that jumped the Kings from eighth to fifth in the West.
Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix all have 76 points, with the Hawks fourth because they have more non-shootout wins than Los Angeles and the Kings fifth because Phoenix has played more games. Los Angeles is 12-2-3 since a 2-0 home loss to the Coyotes on Jan. 20, which capped a 2-10-0 slide by the Kings.
Unlike the 7-4 loss to Detroit, a game in which the Kings repeatedly broke down defensively, this game saw both teams battling for every inch of ice.
"It was a battle. There wasn't that much open ice out there," Stoll said. "It was a pretty defensive-minded game. Bryzgalov plays us pretty well, so the main thing was getting traffic in front of him. We didn't get as many shots as we would have wanted, but we did a lot of good things. We just had to stay with it and be patient.
"I think we played a very solid team game tonight, a full 60 minutes. We did a lot of positive things tonight. We knew we were getting our chances and maybe we weren't getting a lot of shots but we were doing really good things. It was a matter of time. Sometimes you need your special teams to win you a game and tonight they did."
Stoll's fifth winner of the season came on the Kings' 18th and final shot, which equaled the season low they had on Feb. 23 in a 3-2 win at Anaheim.
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla, playing his second gave with Phoenix after being acquired from Columbus on Monday, was sent off for high-sticking Anze Kopitar 41 seconds before Stoll beat Bryzgalov through a screen with a one-timer from the left point.
"It was just a great job of cycling by those guys and good work along the wall," Stoll said, referring to Kopitar and Ryan Smyth. "I know Kopi likes to find that seam, and I try to be open for him and shoot the puck. That's why I'm out there, so I better be shooting it. Anytime there's a broken play like that, usually the penalty killers aren't ready and aren't set. So that's what happened."
The Coyotes have lost a season-worst five straight after an eight-game winning streak that put them atop the Pacific Division for 10 days. They were coming off a frustrating 3-2 home loss Tuesday night in which they tied the game with less than a minute remaining only to allow a power-play goal by Dallas' Jamie Benn burned them on the power play with 4.8 seconds to play.
"They have some really big forwards, especially on the power play, and they create a lot of traffic. But the guys battled really hard and let me see quite a few pucks," said Bernier, whose previous shutout resulted in a 1-0 shootout loss at Minnesota on Feb. 1.
The Kings went with Bernier in net after Jonathan Quick was torched for six goals on 24 shots against Detroit. Bernier got plenty of help -- he faced only one shot through the first 14 minutes and finished with 25 saves in his 18th start of the season.
"There was no message there. It was just a decision that I made," said coach Terry Murray, who was noncommittal as to whether Bernier will start again Saturday at home against Vancouver.
"Bernier's played very well in the last outings that he's had. Through that long road trip in February, he had a couple of real big games. It was just a matter of making a call and trying to win a hockey game. Bernier was really on top of his game, and the guys in front of him played well."
It was the third 1-0 game involving the Coyotes, who beat Dallas and Minnesota in the other ones.
"We got to find ways to get a goal," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We had opportunities to win, but we couldn't find ways to score. Right now every point is so huge that you have to find ways to get one to give yourself a chance."
Right wing Dustin Penner, who won a Stanley Cup ring with Anaheim in 2007, made his Kings debut after joining the club in a trade from Edmonton on Monday.
"Penner was good," Murray said. "I thought he had an impact in the game and he used his size several times and had some impact hits in the offensive zone on the forecheck. He's very responsible away from the puck and he made some good plays coming through the middle of the ice on a couple of breakouts. It was a nice first game. Welcome to the team."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report