In 16 minutes and 15 seconds, the Kings balled up all the problems of a four-game losing streak and tossed them into a damp Newark night.
That’s how long it took the Kings to bury the New Jersey Devils in a 3-1 win Tuesday at the Prudential Center. The Kings scored three first-period goals after scoring seven total in the four straight losses. The Kings, who had converted once in their last 18 power-play opportunities, scored twice on two five-on-four advantages. The Kings, who have been unable to turn shots into goals, needed just 11 attempts to score three times.
The Kings, who have been unable to come from behind, fixed that by scoring 50 seconds into the contest. They fixed it by playing with a lead and keeping it. And that was all accomplished before the start of the second period.
“Obviously the last two games didn’t go the way we wanted them,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “And I think tonight obviously coming out in the first period like we did was big for us getting the lead early.”
But the convincing win was accompanied by uncertainty. The team is still unsure when goaltender Jonathan Quick will return from a groin injury suffered in the season-opening loss to the San Jose Sharks. Lakingsinsider.com first reported Tuesday that Quick would be out until March at the earliest. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi told The Times that the timetable remains unclear and that March is a possibility.
“We will not know until he gets onto the ice. No one knows for sure right now,” Lombardi said. He later added that Quick is “not in the immediate future.”
The Kings also were without center Nic Dowd (lower-body injury) and defenseman Matt Greene (lingering back and groin injuries) for the second straight game, but that did not a prevent a critically sound start.
Kopitar started the scoring with a wrist shot in the first minute, which accounted for his fifth goal of the season. Tanner Pearson scored his 15th goal 56 seconds later. Alec Martinez was next as he beat goaltender Cory Schneider by stalking the crease and smacking in a loose puck.
On Monday, the Kings peppered the New York Rangers with 14 first-period shots but did not score in an eventual 3-2 loss. After that game, forward Jordan Nolan called that the Kings’ “theme this year.” Coach Darryl Sutter thought Tuesday’s start looked similar, aside from the obvious difference in tangible production.
“We dominated the first period last night, too,” Sutter said. “We played well against the [New York] Islanders in the first period [on Saturday], too. We killed a five-on-three and your goalie has to come up with some saves during that. It was important.”
Goaltender Peter Budaj made 24 saves on 25 shots for his first win in 10 days. He stonewalled a point-blank shot by Miles Wood in the first minute. He anchored that critical five-on-three penalty kill in the first period. The Devils inched back with a Kyle Quincey goal in the third, but they didn’t get any closer.
The Kings had already done enough to stop a slide, even if they didn’t turn a flurry of goals into a blowout. The win came early. The win came loudly.
It came in 16 minute and 15 seconds, to be exact.
Times staff writer Helene Elliott, reporting from Los Angeles, contributed to this report.
Follow Jesse Dougherty on Twitter @dougherty_jesse