The Kings’ avoided a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils (20-20-9) at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. They scored all three goals in the first 16 minutes and 15 seconds of action, which allowed Coach Darryl Sutter to rest easy as the game wore on. Sutter admitted that his mind may have wandered while his team was coasting through the third period.
“I’ve got three or four leaks in my basement. We had guys in there today,” Sutter said when asked about the recent rain in Los Angeles. “I was just showing the coaches after the game. The last 10 minutes of the game, I was thinking more about if my wife emptied those rain pails that are in my basement, and that’s a true story.”
Aside from that, below is what we learned from the Kings’ first win of a four-game road trip that wraps up against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
A distinct difference
The Kings got off to a fast start that ultimately decided the game, but Sutter did not concede that that was a departure from recent outings. He noted that the Kings’ controlled the first period in a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday and in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday.
Against the Rangers, the Kings put 14 first-period shots on goal but trailed 1-0 going into the second. On Tuesday, they needed just 11 shots to score three times in the first 20 minutes. The goals came from Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson and Alec Martinez.
We dominated the first period last night too,” Sutter said after the win. “We played well against the Islanders in the first period too. I think we killed the five-on-three and your goalie has to come up with some saves during that, so it was important.
That five-on-three penalty kill, which lasted 1 minute and 44 seconds, may have been the highlight of a very strong performance by the Kings’ special teams.
The Kings had scored just once on their last 18 power-play opportunities coming into the game. That changed when Kopitar netted a wrist shot just 50 seconds into the first period, and then when Martinez crashed the net and beat Cory Schneider with a short-range rebound. The Devils, on the other hand, did not convert on any of their four advantages.
“I thought special teams was the difference in the game,” said Kings goaltender Peter Budaj. “Not just the five-on-three kill, but the special teams the whole night. A lot of guys came up big there.”
Budaj was strong throughout the game, allowing one third-period goal on 25 shots. He otherwise kept the Devils at bay and made a critical save on a Miles Wood wrist shot in the first minute. He also knocked aside three solid chances in the Devils’ painfully long five-on-four advantage.
“Well, I’m glad Peter got a win under his belt. It’s been a while,” Sutter said. “He played really well tonight, and he’s been struggling. Our goaltending’s been an issue for us, so it was good to see him bounce back.”
Due to a groin injury to Jonathan Quick, the goalies have been Budaj and Jeff Zatkoff. Quick has been out since the Kings’ season-opening loss to the San Jose Sharks, and Tuesday did not offer optimism for a return in the near future.
Lakingsinsider.com first reported that Quick will be out until March at the earliest. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi told The Times that the timetable remains unclear and that he could be back in net in March.
“We will not know until he gets onto the ice. No one knows for sure right now,” Lombardi said. He later added that Quick’s return is “not in the immediate future.”
Staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report
Follow Jesse Dougherty on Twitter @dougherty_jesse