Game 43; 26-13-4
LOS ANGELES - After a forgettable road trip, the Los Angeles Kings were back home hoping to end a season-high five-game losing streak. But they were in tough against a Vancouver Canucks team hoping to avenge an ugly loss to Tampa Bay on New Year's Day. Both teams were in need of some momentum and on this night, something had to give.
While the Canucks did receive a boost welcoming back netminder Roberto Luongo to the lineup, the Kings brought back their own number-one backstop as Jonathan Quick, who had missed nearly two months of action with a groin injury, was back in the fold. As a potential Olympic preview, the stage was set for a goaltending duel in what was Kings' head coach Darryl Sutter's 1000th-career regular-season NHL game behind the bench.
While the hometown Kings appeared to have the advantage, it was the visiting team who drew first blood.
After Jeff Carter was called for hooking, the Canucks took advantage on the power play as a crisp passing play was finished off by Ryan Kesler who shot it over a sprawling Jonathan Quick to put Vancouver out in front. It was another less-than-ideal start and another example of a lack of discipline from the Kings. But the silver-and-black were undeterred.
After outshooting Vancouver 17-13 in the opening frame, the Kings did not relent in the second as they fired 18 shots on Luongo to Vancouver's six. Yet the veteran netminder wouldn't give an inch as the Canucks held onto their 1-0 lead after 40 minutes.
In the third, however, the Kings' tireless efforts finally paid off.
Just 1:07 into the frame, Los Angeles was attacking when captain Dustin Brown picked up the puck in front and cashed in before bowling over Luongo, who was okay on the play. The goal was Brown's eighth from Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll.
Determined to take the lead, the Kings kept pressing and at the 12:05 mark, they got their lead when Dwight King, in the corner, fed an open Jeff Carter who one-timed it past Luongo for his 14th. Anze Kopitar picked up the second helper on the goal. THe roof of the Staples Center was about to explode as fans, hoping to see their team pick up their first win of the new year, were elated. But there was still plenty of hockey left to be played.
Prior to the game's opening faceoff, while I was excited for Jonathan Quick's return, I was worried how he'd fare in his first game back from injury. I needn't had worried. Quick was simply magnificent and while he wasn't as busy as his counterpart, No. 32 made a series of timely saves at various points in the game - and that included the final few minutes of regulation where the Canucks were left flustered. Quick's efforts were good enough to land him the game's second stars honours behind teammate Jeff Carter.
But the Kings held strong against Vancouver's late push before Jeff Carter iced his second of the night into the empty net to give Los Angeles the much-needed win. Drew Doughty assisted on the goal. And that was all she wrote as Quick and the Kings improve to 3-0-0 on the season against the Canucks, starting their homestand off on a positive note.
Getting penalized four times certainly wasn't terrible but with that said, the Kings could still work on their discipline considering one infraction cost them a goal. Overall, though, it was a solid effort by Los Angeles as they worked their tails off from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer trying to score - and while it took a while, the Kings were undeterred knowing that their efforts would ultimately pay off.
Having mentioned Los Angeles's great night, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Roberto Luongo's night. In his first game back from a lower-body injury that kept him out since December 22, the veteran made 46 saves en route to a loss that certainly wasn't any fault of his. His efforts were good enough to earn the game's third star.
Despite their recent struggles, this win was just what the Kings needed - as with Darryl Sutter who was victorious in game number 1000 -as they now look forward to Tuesday night when they play host to the Minnesota Wild.