Kings dispatch Blackhawks, move closer to playoff berth – Daily News

LOS ANGELES –– With heat at their backs and a less competitive opponent in their faces, the Kings handled their business in a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at Arena, moving ever closer to securing a playoff berth.

Elsewhere in the Pacific Division, the Calgary Flames won to clinch first place. Second-place Edmonton and fourth-place Vegas were idle Thursday but both prevailed on Wednesday, exerting pressure on the Kings to dispatch the struggling Blackhawks.

The victory stretched the Kings’ advantage over Vegas back to five points and re-established their two-point gap behind Edmonton. The top three teams in the division are guaranteed playoff spots, with the fourth-place finisher left dueling Nashville and Dallas for the Western Conference’s two wild-card berths.

Two Kings victories in their remaining three games would secure a playoff berth that would position them as no worse than the third seed in the division, even if Vegas were to win the four games left on its schedule.

“I’m not going to lie, I came off between the second and third (periods), I wanted to know what the scores were. That’s human nature, that’s how it is,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We should be getting excited about the opportunity, and the best thing that we have is control.”

Centers Phillip Danault and Anze Kopitar scored for the Kings (42-27-10, 94 points), as did wingers Andreas Athanasiou and Trevor Moore. Defenseman Alex Edler and winger Adrian Kempe added two assists apiece. Jonathan Quick earned his fourth win across a stretch of five consecutive starts, stopping 15 shots.

Winger Patrick Kane tallied for Chicago, which has now won just two of its past 13 games. Rancho Cucamonga native Collin Delia saved 31 of 35 shots before exiting the game in the third period with a lower-body injury and being relieved by Kevin Lankinen.

In the third period, a solitary goal separated the sides until there was 8:15 left, when the Kings scored twice in 15 seconds.

First, Athanasiou added an insurance goal after he stole the puck along the wall and sped ahead for a partial breakaway, which he finished against pressure while deking from forehand to backhand and back to his forehand for a sweep-in goal.

The Kings struck again in transition when Edler broke up a play, sending Moore and Arvidsson ahead with momentum. Arvidsson challenged defenseman Jake McCabe and got Delia to commit to the short side before dishing the puck across to Moore for an uncontested tap-in off his backhand. Delia sustained an injury attempting to dive back into position at the back post. For their part, the Kings could finally coast a bit.

“Whenever you can cushion a lead like that in the third period, it’s huge, and we got two quick ones,” Athanasiou said. “It definitely gave us a little more confidence and just a little bit of safety room.”

With less than five minutes left in the second period, Chicago had cut its deficit to a goal with a power-play score. After some fumbling around in the neutral zone, the Blackhawks executed a tic-tac-toe play between Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and Kane, whose sharp angle shot banked off Quick’s pad and into the net. The three-time Stanley Cup champion’s 91 points lead the Blackhawks and his 26 goals are second to only DeBrincat.

The Kings challenged the goal for an offside entry unsuccessfully but killed the resulting penalty.

“We had a real good recovery after the goal against, a good penalty kill and then a good two or three minutes to take us to intermission, I think that was a big two or three minutes for our team,” McLellan said.

The Kings had mounted a 21-6 advantage in shots as the midway point of the game approached, but only a one-goal lead. That changed thanks to Kopitar, who won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly and then scored after redirecting Edler’s shot off Delia and into the net. Kopitar’s goal placed him one shy of his 12th 20-goal campaign.

Edler’s sixth multipoint game of the season came on his 36th birthday. McLellan lauded his influence on the team this season, despite Edler missing three months with a broken ankle.

“With the youth we have (on defense) and the pieces that we’re missing, there has to be a father figure, and there’s two of them,” McLellan said. “One stands and one sits, it’s (assistant coach Trent) Yawney and Edler.”

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