The extra taps that Anze Kopitar gave on the mask of Jonathan Quick at the buzzer said it all.
The end of a wearying trip finally arrived, and the relief fell like a sack of potatoes. Quick again held the Kings’ legs steady, and Kopitar owed him one for a lost faceoff that led to the only goal given up.
“He was big tonight for us,” Kopitar said. “I felt like that was kind of my fault because I lost that draw way too easy. They got that goal. I guess I kind of apologized for that one.”
That happened to be the only goal the Kings gave up in the third period of an undefeated four-game swing, due mostly to Quick and the bold team performance in Sunday’s 3-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
Quick’s 15-save second period allowed the Kings to stave off a fatigued-yet-hungry Chicago long enough for Christian Folin’s second goal of the season to point them home to victory.
They take a 10-3-1 road record — the best 14-game road start in team history — back home with wins against the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues and Blackhawks under them. Quick liked the quality just as much as the quantity of the run.
“Just finding ways to win in tough buildings, playing against some great teams,” Quick said. “It’s obviously positive and something to build off of.”
Quick’s all-business demeanor was offset afterward by Folin’s impromptu exchange with teammate Kyle Clifford, who crashed Folin’s interview scrum and said, “Did you black out when you took that shot?”
“Yes,” Folin said. “Closed my eyes.”
It fell to Folin, a conservative defenseman who has been in and out of the lineup, to spark the Kings with a long wrist shot with Kopitar and Tanner Pearson as moving screens, at 9 minutes 29 seconds of the third period for the game’s first goal. It was Folin’s sixth goal in 137 career games.
“I saw there’s two guys right in front and one on their forecheck coming pretty hard at me, so I just kind of shot it in there, hoping for the best,” Folin said. “It’s fun when it goes in. I don’t score too many goals, so I’ll take it.”
It would have stood as his first career game winner but Jonathan Toews struck with an extra attacker with 1:46 remaining to make it 2-1 after Dustin Brown’s empty-net goal. Kopitar also scored on an empty net.
Kopitar cited the Nov. 25 win against the Ducks that sparked them. They subsequently outscored teams 8-1 in the third period of the trip and have a 36-13 edge in that category this season.
Sunday’s win was initially built by holding Chicago to three shots in the first period, knowing the Blackhawks played Saturday night in Dallas because of a scheduling squeeze, and again with backup goalie Anton Forsberg.
But on came Chicago in the second period to energize the crowd of 21,622. Quick got his left leg out to stop Brent Seabrook’s redirect shot and got his glove on Ryan Hartman’s try. Quick also made a blocker save at the first-period buzzer on Alex DeBrincat.
“We grinded it out,” Kopitar said. “Way too big of a letdown in the second, but Quickie kept us in it. Third period, we just kind of found a way. It’s not easy to do when you’re on a pretty long road trip and you’re 3-0 and it’s easy to get complacent, but we gutted it out there.”
Torrey Mitchell made his Kings debut and won eight of 12 faceoffs in about 13 minutes.