Game 70; 39-25-6
LOS ANGELES – They entered Thursday night having lost their last three decisions. They also entered the evening just five points ahead of Phoenix for third in the Pacific. Head coach Darryl Sutter also entered with a fourth shot at notching career win No. 500 while Jonathan Quick had another shot to tie Rogie Vachon’s franchise-wins mark of 171.
During the game, the pressure mounted a bit more after the Coyotes won on Thursday but it didn’t faze the Kings as they went the distance to defeat the Washington Capitals. The win marks Los Angeles’s first win on their current homestand.
After surrendering an early 2-0 lead on Monday night, the Kings needed to have a better start on Thursday. They were conservative this time while outplaying the visiting Caps who entered Staples Center winners of three-in-a-row.
But above all, the Kings are notorious for their stingy defense and on this night, it showed. While Jonathan Quick was solid in goal, his defenders were just as solid clearing away timely bounces while preventing the opposition from getting many rebounds. Of course, when the Caps did get a rebound or two, Quick was right there to make the stop, including one on former King Dustin Penner who was stoned by No. 32 twice in as many seconds.
But unlike Monday, it was the Kings who opened the scoring. In the latter half of the first, Justin Williams made a lob pass that found its way into the offensive corner. There, Marian Gaborik hustled to avoid the icing before passing in front to a streaking Anze Kopitar who made no mistake, potting his 22nd short-side on Jaroslav Halak. 1-0.
In the second, the Kings began to dominate. Offensively, they had their chances but couldn’t get anything past Halak. Defensively, they were just as sound. One blueliner who stood out for the Kings in this one was Robyn Regehr who shut down the Washington attack, leaving the likes of Ovechkin and Backstrom frustrated.
The Kings seemed determined to win in regulation but in the third, it was the Caps (despite being outshot 8-6) who seized control late – and it paid off.
At the 12:24 mark of the period, the Caps created a scrambled in front when rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov passed out in front to Joel Ward who missed a shot before scoring on his second try to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. The goal was Ward’s 22nd and it was enough to send this game into overtime.
In the extra session, the aforementioned Robyn Regehr took a critical penalty leaving the Kings with just three men against a daunting power play that included Alex Ovechkin, who had 20 PP goals this season. But the Kings were up to the task as was Jonathan Quick who stoned every attempt the Caps had. The defense, as per the theme in regulation, bailed their netminder out, clearing the puck right out of harm’s way, killing off arguably their most important penalty-kill of the season to date. Neither team could score for the remainder of the frame so this one went to a shootout.
In the shootout, the Kings got off to an inauspicious start.
After Anze Kopitar missed on his opportunity, the aforementioned rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Quick to make it 1-0. But Jeff Carter answered right back with a goal of his own, tying things up. After Quick stopped Ovechkin, Marian Gaborik made his first shootout attempt in a Kings uniform – and made no mistake, beating Halak to put the home team up.
It was up to Nicklas Backstrom to extend the shootout for the Caps. But Jonathan Quick stuck his leg out, preserving the win, tying himself for the franchise wins mark and giving Mr. Sutter his 500th-career coaching win tying him with the late, great Toe Blake in the process.
Overall, this was a very promising win for the Los Angeles Kings. While a loss would have been disappointing, no one donning the silver-and-black could have been faulted, not even Robyn Regehr who dished out a team-leading eight hits on the night in addition to a blocked shot, all while being on the ice for 22:05. Kudos should also be extended to Jarret Stoll and Jake Muzzin who each had five hits and two shots on goal.
But, while he was named runner-up to First Star Anze Kopitar on this night, Jonathan Quick deserves the biggest kudos of all for his spectacular play, which especially includes his dominance in the overtime session with his team down four men to three. His 22 saves may not look spectacular on paper but quality reigned over quantity on this night and with his win, No. 32 is on the brink of making team history when the Kings host Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. That is, of course, if the Kings elect to start Quick instead of Martin Jones.