Tanner Pearson delivers Kings a needed victory
The All-Star break has practically left the Kings broken, but they still had a leg to stand on before it began.
Just being able to field a lineup before the four-day hiatus was considered victory enough Wednesday. Headlining a grocery list of injuries was the announcement that Jonathan Quick will miss this weekend’s All-Star game with what general manager Rob Blake described as a “nagging injury” that the goalie has been playing through and will make him ineligible to play Tuesday in Dallas.
Derek Forbort and Nick Shore were scratched with upper- and lower-body injuries, respectively, but the Kings pulled out a 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames in front of 19,004 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Tanner Pearson drilled home Drew Doughty’s shot-pass with 26.1 seconds left and the Kings went into their break with a win — only their second in nine games. Darcy Kuemper made 30 saves to back up a defense that had 27 blocked shots and did not allow a shot in overtime.
“We were desperate,” Kuemper said. “You could tell by the way guys were committed in our own zone. We were paying the price it takes to win and we were rewarded for it.”
Kuemper’s performance came in place of Quick and in front of his father, sister and uncle. Kuemper played his junior hockey in nearby Red Deer.
“It’s always fun playing here,” he said.
The win came in the backdrop of Quick and his history of serious groin injuries — the latest kept him out most of last season — and Blake alluded to that in needing to give his prized goalie time to heal instead of playing in a three-on-three exhibition tournament in Tampa, Fla.
“If we could take this time, due to his past injuries and seeing what kind of season he had last year with that, [we will],” Blake said. “We want to make sure he’s 100% healthy. If we can get five to seven days here, by the looks of it, we’re going to use it.”
NHL policy states that a player must sit out one regular-season game for withdrawing from the All-Star game. The Kings could have used Wednesday to fulfill that requirement but Blake said roster restrictions prevented them from recalling another goalie. Quick, who dressed as a backup, played in 39 of the Kings’ first 48 games but Blake said that’s not a factor in this injury.
“I think if you looked at his past, he’s always played a lot,” Blake said. “He’s capable of that. We’re not worried about that. This is more of a nagging thing we can take of here.”
Kings coach John Stevens said he didn’t think Shore’s injury is long term.
Forbort is day-to-day and will be reevaluated, Blake said. Rookie Paul LaDue made his season debut and is the latest callup Blake and the Kings are looking at in examining the organizational depth as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches. Blake reiterated it’s been a constant assessment, through good and poor stretches.
“We brought everyone that we possibly thought could give us something up here,” Blake said. “I think what we’re doing is evaluating what we have as an organization. We’ve seen those kids. This is the team we have right now.”
LaDue was on the ice for the prettiest goal of the night, a give-and-go finish by Calgary’s Sean Monahan with Johnny Gaudreau at 14:03 of the first period. Micheal Ferland made a between-the-legs pass to set it up.
The teams then exchanged penalties, some on tossed sticks by Doughty and Mikael Backlund, and the usual hostilities with Flames nemesis Matthew Tkachuk. Then Jake Muzzin tied it 1-1 on the power play with a slap shot 4:09 into the third period, with Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown creating traffic.
Pearson’s game-winner — his second overtime goal this season — erased Tuesday’s 6-2 loss at Vancouver from their mouths.
“[We needed this] pretty bad,” Pearson said. “I think after [Tuesday’s loss] it twas embarrassing, to say the least.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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