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While the Los Angeles Kings earned an inch of breathing room, the Dallas Stars may find themselves suffocating without a win against San Jose tonight.
The Kings found themselves facing a hot goalie in Devan Dubnyk, who weathered a barrage of shots and power plays from Anaheim a night earlier and arrived in identical form. He stopped 28 of 28 shots through two periods.
Yet his opposite number in the L.A. net, Jonathan Quick, came up with his league-leading tenth shutout of the season. He eschewed all discussion of his climbing leaderboards and the rising volume of Vezina talks.
“I guess it’s an honor to be up there but it’s a credit to how well this team played in front of me,” Quick said. “You look at my last two shutouts, we faced 18 or 19 shots and not too many quality chances.”
Meanwhile, two rookies scored for Los Angeles. Slava Voynov opened the scoring 34 seconds into the third period and, nearly 18 minutes later, Dwight King sealed the deal with a one-timer from Mike Richards. Both neophytes have become critical cogs for the Kings of late.
“I’ve been playing with some great players,” King said. “Mike is a really good two-way player, he makes things so much easier out there.”
The win earned the Kings a two-point cushion, which, in Pacific Division terms, may be considered a commanding lead. They have a game out of hand, however, against the Stars, Sharks and Coyotes.
The Stars find themselves on the outside looking in after being the hottest team in the Pacific through much of March.
They sit one point behind San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot and will host the Sharks tonight in a match-up that could make or break their season.
Dallas has to play more desperately than San Jose not only because they trail by a point but because their divisional schedule will conclude in this game with no easy targets in sight.
Unlike Phoenix, who has no divisional games and only one of three games remaining against a playoff-bound club, Dallas faces heavy opposition. They will wrap up their regular season with Nashville and St. Louis, two of the top defensive clubs in the NHL.
By contrast, San Jose closes out with an all-Pacific schedule, at Dallas and then a home-and-home set with the Kings. The rub for the Sharks is that they have to play two of those three pivotal games on the road.
The Sharks have developed a team-wide allergy to white jerseys and room service, losing 17 of their last 21 on the road.
While team captain Joe Thornton could not put his finger on a particular problem, Ryane Clowe offered a decent guess. The Sharks have not held a lead on the road in over three weeks, their last lead coming Mar. 13 against Calgary.
“When you score early, it sets game the a little differently,” Clowe told reporters. “When you’re getting chances and you’re not scoring, it’s in the back of your head that you have to score. If we can find a way to score and get a lead, that would be a good start.”
Pacific Division Notes
Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter missed his third consecutive game with a deep bone bruise on his ankle. He is day-to-day but appears doubtful for the Kings’ next game against San Jose … The Kings’ 11 shutouts and the 10 by Jonathan Quick are both club records … Simon Gagne appears to be done for the season with post-concussion syndrome and related symptoms … San Jose’s Douglas Murray remains doubtful with a lower-body injury for the game against Dallas but he will likely return this week.