LOS ANGELES – Playing their first game in eight days, the Los Angeles Kings relied on goalie Jonathan Quick’s reflexes to compensate for the rustiness of everyone else.
Quick made 15 of his 31 saves in the second period to protect a three-goal lead after Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll scored less than two minutes apart in the first period, and the Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Thursday night for their third straight victory.
“Quick saved our bacon a couple of times out there. He’s been that way through most every game that he’s played,” coach Terry Murray said. “That eight-day break is nice to have because you get rested. But professional hockey players getting away for eight days from intense competition means your timing is off. That’s all there is to it, and your goaltender has to save you.”
Quick earned his first NHL point with an assist on Patrick O’Sullivan’s fourth career short-handed goal at 5:26 of the second period. Alexander Frolov scored his team-high 21st goal and Kyle Quincey had two assists for Los Angeles.
Brown connected on a power play, extending his goal streak to four games, then scored into an empty net during another power play with 19 seconds left. Chicago’s penalty-killing unit has allowed nine goals in 22 short-handed situations over six games after going 7-for-7 against Buffalo on Jan. 14.
“It’s always a challenge against them,” Brown said. “They have a lot of young players on their team right now, and they’re creating a lot of buzz and in a playoff spot – which is where we need to be.”
The Kings are two points out of eighth place in the Western Conference with 35 games remaining. Nine teams are separated by four points.
“I think that team is a lot better than what people give them credit for,” Chicago defenceman Brian Campbell said. “They’re knocking on the door for the playoffs, and I think probably too many teams underestimate them.
“I know (coach Joel Quenneville) went over that with us, telling us, ‘Don’t take this team lightly. They’re a good hockey team.’ But I don’t think we competed as hard as we need to in order to win hockey games. Some nights we’re still trying to figure out our roles, maybe a little bit.”
Campbell set up third-period goals by Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp, and Cristobal Huet made 21 saves in his second loss this season against his former team.
Chicago’s Ben Eager was sent off for slashing Drew Doughty at 12:40 of the first, and James Wisniewski was whistled for delay of game 69 seconds later. Brown opened the scoring 7 seconds after the first penalty expired.
“The focal point of the game was a quick-shot attitude,” Murray said. “Anywhere in the offensive zone, we wanted to get the puck at the net as quickly as possible and not look for an extra play.”
Stoll made it 2-0, getting a pass from behind the net by Kyle Calder and one-timing in a shot for his 11th goal this season and ninth in 16 games against the Blackhawks.
“We didn’t have a great first period and it ended up coming back to haunt us,” Chicago right wing Craig Adams said. “The last 30 minutes of the game we played pretty hard and put some pressure on them. They don’t give you much. We had some good chances, but their goalie made some good saves.”
O’Sullivan also scored his 11th goal. It was the Kings’ third short-handed goal this season.
Bolland got the Blackhawks on the board with 12:29 remaining, beating Quick with a slap shot from the top of the right circle during a delayed penalty call. Frolov restored the Kings’ three-goal margin 37 seconds later. Sharp scored Chicago’s second goal on a one-timer from the right point – his ninth in 11 career games against the Kings.
“We know we can beat good teams,” Stoll said. “We were not as consistent as we wanted to be, and they were kind of all over us in the third. But Quick held us in it and Frolov gave us a timely goal. We needed that one bad. We know we got away with one here.”
Notes: The Kings, who returned home from a 2-0-1 trip, go back on the road for the next five games. … The Blackhawks, who beat Anaheim 3-2 on Wednesday, have played the Kings and Ducks in back-to-back road games on 22 occasions and have swept only twice – in February 1996 and March 1994. … The Kings have the youngest team in the league by average age (25 years, 318 days). The Blackhawks are the second-youngest (26 years, 43 days). … Quincey, who set up Brown’s goal, has 18 points on the power play – including 16 assists. … Chicago RW Kris Versteeg, who leads rookies with 36 points, missed his second straight game because of an injured pinkie on his right hand. … Kings RW Brad Richardson was activated from the injured list and played for the first time since Dec. 2. He missed 22 games because of a foot injury.