LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings shut down the San Jose Sharks’ vaunted power play with grit, determination and desperation that often frustrates opponents.
Quick earned his NHL-leading fourth shutout in his 200th regular-season game, a 2-0 victory on Monday night. He made 33 saves, coming up big numerous times during two short-handed situations in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the second period en route to his 18th career shutout.
“That was a critical moment there for sure,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “That’s the part of the game they wait on—the power play. They’ve got a group of guys that have been together for 10 years, and they know how to move the puck around. So we had to be good in those situations.
“You kill the penalties the best you can with your forwards. But when it comes down to it, your goaltender has to be good against the power play. And he was.”
The Sharks totalled nine shots on net during five power plays. The Kings have killed all 16 short-handed situations the last four games, after allowing at least one power-play goal in each of their previous eight.
“We had a little bit of a stretch there where we weren’t happy with the PK,” Quick said. “But it’s something that we’ve been great at the past couple of years and it’s something we’ve been really putting a big focus on these past few games.”
Mike Richards, in the fourth season of a US$69-million, 12-year contract extension, scored his ninth goal in 10 games and 12th overall being traded to the Kings by Philadelphia. Ethan Moreau ended a 58-game goal drought with his first since October 2009.
The Sharks, who outshot Vancouver 45-27 in a 3-2 home loss on Saturday, were shut out for the third time this season. Antti Niemi made 31 saves.
“The first two periods there was not a lot of emotion,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “We didn’t really work to get our chances. Five-on-five we had nothing for the first two periods and weren’t working hard enough to win. There are 82 games, and you have got to find a way to get up for every one.”
Niemi stopped 15-of-16 shots in the first period. The only goal was scored on a wrist shot from a sharp angle to the left of the net by Moreau that caromed in off Niemi’s glove. The 16-year veteran, who had a career-high 20 goals in 2003-04 with Edmonton, signed a one-year contract with the Kings after spending last season with Columbus.
“It feels great. It’s always nice to contribute,” Moreau said. “I’ve been able to score goals from that spot all my career, and this was no exception. On good teams, the third and fourth lines need to produce, and I think we have that ability. We’ve created a lot of chances the last three or four games, and it was only a matter of time.”
The teams were skating 4-on-4 when Richards made it 2-0 at 4:16 of the second. Simon Gagne, reunited on a line with his former Philadelphia teammate for this game, got the puck down low from defenceman Willie Mitchell and circled the net before setting up Richards at the edge of the crease.
“I know it’s early in the season, but we’re not happy with where we are in the standings and the losses that we’ve had,” Moreau said. “We’ve lost to some good teams like Chicago and Detroit, and we just want to prove to ourselves that we belong as an elite team. We have to start proving that, and this was a good start.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown, who shifted from right wing to left wing on a line with Anze Kopitar and Trent Hunter, didn’t have a shot on net through the first two periods before his apparent short-handed goal at 6:01 of the third was disallowed following a video review.
Brown carried the puck through the neutral zone, stickhandled around Justin Braun in the left circle and moved into the slot for a shot that was stopped by Niemi. Teammate Slava Voynov took a whack at the rebound, then made a kicking motion at the same time Brown got his stick on the puck and put it past the sprawling goalie.
“That call, in my opinion, should have gone the other way,” Murray said. “It was called a goal on the ice by the official, and then the explanation to me after the replay was that it was inconclusive by the video replay judge, as to whether it was kicked in or was hit by a stick. So it should have been a goal.”
NOTES: Quick’s other shutouts this season came in consecutive starts last month against St. Louis, Phoenix and Dallas. … Sharks C Michal Handzus, back at Staples Center for the first time since leaving the Kings and signing a $5-million, two-year contract with San Jose in July 1, was scratched for the first time this season, due to illness. … The Kings earned their 1,400th regular-season victory. … Los Angeles is 1 for 18 on the power play over five games after scoring at least once with the man advantage in six straight games. That streak began in a 4-2 loss at San Jose on Nov. 7. … Niemi was 5-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average in his previous five starts before back-to-back losses to the Canucks and Kings.