LOS ANGELES, Calif. – After a four-day break in the schedule allowed them to stew over a couple of recent losses, Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings returned to the rink with a determination to keep pace in the tough Pacific Division.
Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar scored power-play goals, and Quick earned his first shutout of the season in the Kings’ 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Richards had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who came back from their break with their ninth victory in 13 games. Quick, who made 19 saves in his 26th career shutout, thought Los Angeles responded well to its lengthy stretch of rest and practice.
“With the Olympic year, you miss some days here and there with practice and being able to work on the details,” said Quick, a possible U.S. national team goalie. “So we had a good three practices where we were able to get some work done.”
Quick celebrated his 300th NHL game with his first regular-season shutout since last March 18, punctuating the win with a handful of scrambling saves late in the scoreless third period. Quick even kept his brother-in-law, Buffalo’s Matt Moulson, off the scoresheet.
“Having him back there as a defenceman always makes me feel safe,” said Drew Doughty, whose pass set up Kopitar’s goal in the second period.
The Kings dropped tough games against Phoenix and Nashville last week. At 10-6, Los Angeles is off to another good start to the season after back-to-back trips to the Western Conference finals—but good isn’t enough in a division featuring Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix and Vancouver.
With Quick leading a solid defensive performance, Los Angeles won without two of its top forwards. Jeff Carter, the Kings’ top goal-scorer, missed his second straight game with a foot injury, and centre Jarret Stoll sat out for the first time this season with an upper-body injury.
Linden Vey made his NHL debut for the Kings in their absence, centring the fourth line with Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan.
Fellow youngster Tyler Toffoli had an assist for the second straight game since getting called up for the first time this season.
Jhonas Enroth stopped 26 shots for the NHL-worst Sabres (3-14-1), who couldn’t follow up their stunning win at San Jose with another surprise on their three-game California road trip. Buffalo hasn’t won consecutive games all season.
“I think we outchanced them in the five-on-five department,” Buffalo captain Steve Ott said.
“They’re a good veteran club that is used to playing in those kinds of situations, but I liked our effort tonight. It was the same as in San Jose. Our passion and pride has been way better in the last two games, and that’s the way we have to play to have any success in this league.”
Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff left the Buffalo bench early in the third period with a lower-body injury. Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said Ehrhoff was fine. The Sabres play at Anaheim on Friday night.
Buffalo controlled the flow of play early on, but the Kings broke through in the final minute of the first period, with Richards redirecting Jake Muzzin’s shot from the point for his fourth goal in six games.
Kopitar scored during 4-on-3 play midway through the second period, putting a changeup one-timer past Enroth after a slick cross-ice give-and-go with Doughty. Kopitar has goals in three straight games and four in the past six since ending his 26-game regular-season goal drought late last month.
“We played well at times in the game, but obviously we put them on the power play too much tonight,” Rolston said. “They’ve been together for a long time, so they have continuity in their power play.
“It’s a 1-0 game, we’re on the power play, and two minutes later, they have (another power play). That’s not a very good recipe when you want to have a successful night.”
The Sabres, shut out for the fourth time already this season, hadn’t visited Staples Center since Jan. 21, 2010. The Kings open a four-game road trip in Buffalo on Tuesday.
NOTES: Moulson and Quick are married to sisters Alicia and Jaclyn Backman. Moulson was in the Kings organization from 2006-09, scoring six goals in 29 games in Los Angeles, but never catching on with the big-league club. Moulson had two goals and four assists in his first four games with the Sabres, who acquired him from the New York Islanders late last month. … Los Angeles D Robyn Regehr faced Buffalo for the first time since the Sabres traded him to the Kings late last season. … After Kings F Matt Frattin landed a hard check on Cody McCormick late in the second period, Buffalo’s 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers challenged the 6-foot Frattin to a fight. Frattin wrestled Myers to the ice, and Myers got an extra penalty for holding.