For a zero-zero cross-conference non-rivalry game between the 31st place team and a team just outside of the playoff bubble, there was some underrated watchability for most of the first 58 scoreless minutes of Sunday’s home stand opener against Carolina. If you dismiss the whistles – which was hard, because there were 72 faceoffs – there were good chances snuffed out at both ends of the ice, but as the minutes expired, those chances were directed more frequently at an excellent Jonathan Quick than they were at Petr Mrazek, who held his own in a compelling goaltending duel. Quick was fantastic and a prime reason why Los Angeles came away with two points, and his fingertip blocker save on Brock McGinn in the second period is an immediate inclusion to his pantheon of great saves. Drew Doughty’s emotion after Thursday’s Edmonton game made it clear that the team would have a discussion about getting a win for Quick, and that appeared to be a motivator — along with the obvious need to get two points — for the group on Sunday. “Obviously that was a pretty emotional one,” Alec Martinez said after the game. “I think, if anything, you wanted to do it for Quickie because Jonathan Quick was simply outstanding. I’ve seen that guy play a lot of really good hockey and that game was certainly up there, so if for nothing else, do it for him.”
One of the topics upstairs during the first period was whether Carolina was suffering through some early-trip jetlag after arriving on the West Coast. Los Angeles came out strong through the first 18 minutes, banking on quality looks from Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli that were rebuffed by Mrazec. Despite a late Hurricanes flurry that forced Jonathan Quick into difficult saves, the Kings still led in shots on goal after one, 13-12. They finished with a 35-34 lead after 60 minutes, an indication that they did a good job executing a structured game plan, considering Carolina’s league-leading shot differential. The Hurricanes, who will shoot from just about anywhere, missed the net 15 times and had 20 shots blocked, so they still comfortably won the possession battle, but as Willie Desjardins noted after the game, Los Angeles did a good job limiting the opposition’s stretch passes and making sure defense didn’t have ample opportunity to jump into plays, even if they benefited from a pair of Sebastian Aho flubs on one-time attempts in which he had ample net to shoot at. Again, the Canes had a wide discrepancy in shot attempts that also evolved into the majority of regular and high-danger chances, per Natural Stat Trick, but ran into a Quickie Being Quickie night.
In earning the win, Los Angeles had to stare down its nemesis: a third period penalty kill. This kill evolved into an extended five-on-three when Toffoli joined Kyle Clifford in the box, and nearly stung the Kings when Jordan Staal had an excellent opportunity from the slot on the type of one-time look that had buried the Kings in recent home games against Colorado and Vancouver. But Quick came out to Flower Street to challenge Staal, kept the puck out of his net, and made another high-impact save later in the kill en route to the 50th shutout of his career. A three-for-three performance marked only the fourth time in the last 11 games that L.A. emerged from a game unscathed while shorthanded, and given the scripts that had been written in their previous two losses and the need to get wins by any means necessary – but also get Quick his first win of the season – they forged ahead with an emotional kill that set the stage for Alec Martinez to score off a drawn up play in which Kopitar won a faceoff before Dustin Brown claimed the puck and fed Jake Muzzin, who issued a pinpoint pass for the game-winning redirection.
–Lead photo via Katharine Lotze/Getty Images