LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Just a few minutes into his first game back from a serious groin strain, Jonathan Quick had to do the splits to make a save.
Los Angeles’ star goalie survived those perilous gymnastics with no problem, and he eventually backstopped the Kings to a skid-snapping win.
Quick stopped 27 shots in his return from a 24-game injury absence, Jeff Carter scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:55 to play, and the Kings snapped their five-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
Dustin Brown tied it early in the third period and Carter added an empty-net goal as Los Angeles ended its longest skid in coach Darryl Sutter’s tenure with a late rally. They also got a boost from the return of their Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie, who hadn’t played since injuring his groin Nov. 12 in Buffalo.
“The team played great in front of me,” Quick said. “I gave up a couple of rebounds, and the guys cleared them out. We kept fighting and got a couple of breaks.”
Quick was selected for his second U.S. Olympic team Wednesday despite his lengthy absence, and the Kings put their $58 million goalie right back in the lineup immediately after activating him from injured reserve. He gave up an early power-play goal, but shut down the Canucks over the final 47 minutes—including two breathtaking stops on a breakaway by Daniel Sedin in the final seconds.
“We know who he is,” Carter said. “First game back, I thought he was sharp.”
Ryan Kesler scored for the Canucks, who lost their third straight despite 46 saves by Roberto Luongo in his own return from a three-game injury absence since Dec. 22.
“We don’t have a sniff of a chance if he doesn’t play the way he did,” Vancouver coach John Tortorella said of Luongo. “I shudder to think what the score would be. So let’s not kid ourselves. The game wasn’t as close as the score. We have a ton of work to do.”
Sutter coached his 1,000th NHL game as his team stumbled home from a winless four-game road trip. Although their scoreless streak stretched to 120 minutes, the Kings rallied to win when trailing after two periods for the first time since Nov. 14.
Brown finally cracked Luongo’s shutout bid on the Kings’ 37th shot, knocking home a cross-ice puck from Justin Williams—and then accidentally kicking Luongo in the face when Mike Santorelli upended him in the crease.
Carter scored the tiebreaker after an exceptional play by Dwight King, who lifted Jason Garrison’s stick and outraced the Vancouver defenceman to a puck before putting a pass on Carter’s tape for his 14th goal.
“(King) made a heck of a play there,” Carter said after his second multigoal game of the season. “I thought we did a lot of good things in the first two periods, but Luongo played really good. We stuck with it and kept working.”
Carter gave no chance to Luongo, but the veteran has been solid all season for the Canucks, boosting the gold medal winner’s chances of being Canada’s starting goalie in Sochi next month.
“Carter released it quick, and it went through our D-men,” Luongo said. “You’ve got to give him credit. It was a good shot, but I would have liked to have gotten a piece of that.”
Quick could be Luongo’s starting counterpart for the U.S. team, although he’ll have to prove he’s back in top form over the next five weeks.
Quick looked sharp in the opening minutes, but Kesler scored his 16th goal while falling to the ice, beating his fellow U.S. Olympian’s glove off a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sedin.
The goal eased Vancouver’s 1-for-19 slump on the power play over the last seven games.
“In our division, we’re going to have to learn to battle harder, and it starts with our forwards, as far as the forecheck,” Tortorella said. “Our D was under siege all night long, and if we’re going to compete in our division, we need to be more consistent.”
NOTES: The Kings didn’t immediately have to make a corresponding roster move when Quick was activated because they traded F Daniel Carcillo to the New York Rangers earlier in the day. Carcillo went scoreless in his final 23 games with Los Angeles. … The 55-year-old Sutter is the 22nd NHL head coach to reach 1,000 games. … The Kings scratched D Matt Greene.