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Jeff Carter applies finishing touch in OT for Kings

Jeff Carter applies finishing touch in OT for Kings
Kings center Jeff Carter celebrates his overtime goal with center Tyler Toffoli, front, who recorded an assist, while Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, right, reacts. (Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

The downtown sky cleared up Saturday in time for the Kings to unveil a 50th anniversary monument outside Staples Center, a ceremony initially postponed because of rain.

Inside the building, there seemed to be a timely opening for the Kings: The Chicago Blackhawks were on their second game in 48 hours, without injured captain Jonathan Toews and with backup goalie Scott Darling in net. Helping the Kings cause was wing Marian Gaborik in his season debut.

And so it happened that Jeff Carter scored 66 seconds into overtime, just after a Chicago penalty expired, to give the Kings a 2-1 win and stretch their winning streak to five games.

Carter zipped a wrist shot from the left side for his 10th goal, which leads the Kings. Goalie Peter Budaj won his 12th game in his 20th straight appearance as the Kings continued to thrive in what is largely an injury-filled early season.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter has seen his team deliver in similar spots lately.

“We’ve had them four-on-threes [situations], probably more in the last month than probably would you have in the whole season,” Sutter said of Carter’s winner. “Obviously, it’s a big goal. Good shot by Jeff. It’s a pretty good four guys to be out there [with Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar].”

The monument was a bronze, granite and glass tableau of Kings players through the years, from Rogie Vachon to Dustin Brown lifting the Stanley Cup above his head. It is meant as a symbolic timeline of Kings history.

So it went that defenseman Alec Martinez, hero of the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, scored a second-period goal that tied it 1-1 and extended his point streak to five games. Martinez lifted a wrist shot high over Darling for his fifth goal 57 seconds into the period.

Gaborik played on the fourth line with Nick Shore and Jordan Nolan in his first game since he suffered a broken foot during the World Cup of Hockey in September. He played several games for Europe, but Saturday was his first NHL game since the Kings were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference first round April 22.

He had a golden chance at a tiebreaking goal midway through the third period but shot wide in the slot.

The Kings and Blackhawks staged an epic 2014 playoff series known for long stretches of whistle-free play. The first period made that seem like eons ago. The Kings went offside three times on a power play and couldn't break through with a 13-1 shot advantage through the opening 18 minutes.

The Blackhawks? They scored on that one shot, a deft tip by Patrick Kane off Duncan Keith's shot that roofed up over Budaj.

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The Kings thought they had the game’s first goal just more than a minute in when Toffoli slid the puck on a backhand off Carter’s rebound past Darling. Chicago challenged that Tanner Pearson pushed Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson into Darling during the play, and the goal was negated upon review.

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While Gaborik returned, Andy Andreoff continued to wait for his return to the lineup since he recovered from thumb surgery. Andreoff said before the game that "I feel like I'm ready" but understood that it wasn't ideal to tinker with the lineup during a winning run.

"We're on a four-game winning streak, so you can't really change much," Andreoff said. "Be ready in practice and get the conditioning up and get that timing back."

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