Los Angeles Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick stops a shot on goal by San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau as Kings' defenceman Drew Doughty (left) and Robyn Regehr defend during the first period Tuesday in Game 1 of their second-round NHL playoff series in in Los Angeles.
Photograph by: Chris Carlson, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — He is Quickie to some of his teammates, Quicker to others.
The San Jose Sharks will vouch for the latter.
Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goaltender, was simply quicker than the Shark-shooters in Tuesday night’s opener of their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal, shutting the visitors out 2-0 on 35 shots.
It was the Kings’ 11th straight home ice win including the regular season, their fifth in a row in the playoffs since losing the first two on the road in St. Louis.
Goals by Slava Voynov and Mike Richards were more than enough for Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of last year’s Stanley Cup run, with a 1.43 goals-against average and a gaudy .946 save percentage.
After denying the Sharks on Tuesday, his save percentage this spring is .953, so evidently he’s not a flash-in-the-pan, in case the Sharks were wondering.
“He’s been our MVP the last couple of years, and tonight he was our best player. That’s Quickie being Quickie. I think you guys should probably be used to it by now,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown.
The Sharks got past the Kings in six games two playoff seasons ago -- winning all three of the games that went to overtime -- but that was a year before the all-world Quick who owned the Stanley Cup tournament last season had advanced past the merely terrific stage.
The visitors were all over the Kings early and late, but no amount of pressure fazed Quick, who gave almost no second chances and made a series of saves on Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, in particular, on a night when the big, speedy Sharks had plenty of opportunities.
“I just spent a week, six days anyhow, reviewing the St. Louis series and I heard a lot of the same stuff coming out of their mouths, so we didn’t accomplish enough,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “They said they had a lot of chances and the goaltender made a number of saves ... we can’t be that team again. We have to find ways to score, we have to make it a lot harder on them.
“All the clichés, I can stand up here and use them all. You can have as many good looks as you want, you can be in all alone, you have to find ways to finish and we have players that are very capable of doing that, we have players that are capable of scoring greasy, dirty, playoff style goals.
“When the night ends, you have to have the job done.”
“I thought it got more physical as the game went on, I think it always does. And the further you go into the playoffs,” said Brown, who like all the Kings had their hands full holding off Joe Thornton, Burns and -- after coach Todd McLellan moved him up to the wing on the big line -- Pavelski.
Richards drew the Thornton assignment most of the night, and it was a battle.
The visitors had the best of the play early -- with and without the puck -- and Quick had to be sensational to keep it scoreless, in particular taking the bread off Pavelski’s table three times.
But little by little the Kings, enjoying home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time in 21 years, began to re-assert themselves physically. And with 13 seconds left in the first period, Richards won a puck battle along the boards inside the Sharks blueline, and the puck squirted to Voynov, who buried a 30-footer through traffic and past Antti Niemi to put the Kings on top at the intermission.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the 0.2 seconds that remained in the second period when Dustin Penner’s long shot skipped past St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott to decide the first-round series against the Blues, but it was one more example of playing until the buzzer tells you to stop.
When Voynov sifted a long wrist shot, again through rush-hour traffic, 12:30 into the second period -- having held the puck long enough to ensure a lineup of human bodies between him and the net -- Niemi never saw that one, either, because the nearest player to the net, Richards, had it skip off his heel and change direction as he was crossing the goaltender’s line of sight.
It gave the Kings their first two-goal lead of the playoffs. Seven games in, that’s a pretty good testament to their ability to thrive in tight games and they needed it against the Sharks.
“I think they’re a very fast team, a different team than St. Louis,” Brown said. “These guys are probably faster and make more rush chances, hold onto the puck, so it’s not the chip-and-chase game it was against St. Louis.
“There’s definitely things we can clean up -- I mean, we gave up 35 shots, and Quickie had to make some big saves. They have some big strong guys that can control the puck down low.”
The Kings lost centre Jarret Stoll in the second period when he was caught with a glancing shoulder to the jaw by Raffi Torres -- not a typical seek-and-destroy Torres play, but with a similar result.
McLellan thought it was a clean hit and Torres didn’t even rate the charging penalty he received on the play.
L.A. coach Darryl Sutter only said: “Well, he didn’t come back in the third. It wasn’t because we were resting him.”
One game in, though, the Kings have made a statement.
San Jose scored five more goals in their four-game sweep of the Canucks than the offensively-challenged Blues managed in six games against the Kings -- which either says a lot about the Sharks’ weaponry, or the sorry state of Vancouver’s defence in the first round.
Or, more likely, it says how stingy the Kings defence is, as long as Quick is its last line.
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