Sports

Alec Martinez scores game-winner in Kings' 3-1 victory over Carolina

SportsLos Angeles KingsAlec MartinezJonathan QuickDarryl SutterCarolina HurricanesMatt Greene

One particular statistic might as well be printed in capital letters and practically leaps off the page. It resonates even more in a tight, stretch-run situation in which points and wins are carefully hoarded.

Game-winning goals.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez has scored five times this season but two have been game-winners.

BOX SCORE: Kings 3, Hurricanes 1

His power-play goal from the slot at 8:15 of the third period put the Kings in front for good and they added an empty-netter from Justin Williams to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon.

It kept the Kings unbeaten in three games in the span of four days since they returned from the Olympic break, and they've won four straight overall. This was their first game back at Staples Center since the extended absence and the Sochi Olympians, from both teams, were honored with scoreboard tributes.

Naturally, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had a slightly different perspective on the Martinez contribution.

"Huge goal," said Quick, who has allowed just one goal in his two starts since returning from Russia. "Obviously that's what you guys will talk about, the goal. But he played really well in our end and made some big plays, breaking up plays in our end."

The Kings had been 0 for 5 on the power play before Martinez broke the drought.

Martinez has played in 41 of the Kings' 62 games this season. He missed a handful of games before the break because of injury but previously has been in and out of the lineup, handling the fate of a healthy scratch with stoic grace.

"There's certainly a thing that as an athlete getting in a groove helps a lot," he said. "There's a routine. You just kind of have a feeling where things start flowing. You're making the plays you know you can make, the little plays. When you sit out … It's a little different for me because I had an injury too.

"The little things are the last thing to come back, the plays that make a difference. Playing consistently helps with that."

The only goal Quick has allowed since coming back was a bit of a fluke. It was credited to Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera but went off the shoulder of Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr past Quick at 19:45 of the first period, making it 1-1. The goal came just 41 seconds after Mike Richards had given the Kings a 1-0 lead with a shot from the base of the right circle, beating Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin, for his first goal since Jan. 18.

Martinez has played the last two games in place of veteran defenseman Matt Greene, who has been a healthy scratch. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter also sat out forward Matt Frattin and center Jordan Nolan. The three kids who started the season in the minors — left wing Tanner Pearson, center Linden Vey and right wing Tyler Toffoli — were all in the lineup against the Hurricanes.

"Just keep mixing those young guys, Cliffy [Kyle Clifford], Jordan, Toffoli, Pearson, Vey," Sutter said. "Keep mixing them in and out of the lineup until somebody grabs it."

The veterans are accustomed to the frantic pace of the final six weeks of the regular season.

"Any time you're on the bubble, especially here in the West, for as long as I've been here it's been an absolute battle to get into the playoffs," Martinez said.

"We're all experienced. We all know what it takes. It's a matter of doing it. You've got to play playoff hockey going into the playoffs. You can't just flip a switch. The year we won it, that's what we did. That's what we've got to do now."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsLos Angeles KingsAlec MartinezJonathan QuickDarryl SutterCarolina HurricanesMatt Greene
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