Kings goalie Peter Budaj making a case for All-Star game at age 34

Kings goalie Peter Budaj makes a pad save against Ottawa during a game Dec. 10.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

One of the traits that Kings goalie Peter Budaj has shown regularly during this season is humility. He’s appreciated every step of his NHL resurrection as if it were gravy, and the latest dollop came Saturday.

Budaj reached 16 wins in a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks, his most in the NHL since he had 20 for the Colorado Avalanche in 2008-09. Budaj led the American Hockey League with 42 wins last season, but to succeed at this level carries more meaning.

“It feels pretty good,” Budaj said before he corrected himself. “It feels pretty great, I would say, not good. I’m very thankful to be healthy and to be here and help the team to win games and play as much as I’m playing. I’m very thankful to God for that, and it’s just a great experience for me. I’m excited for what 2017 holds for me.”

It’s conceivable that Budaj could be an All-Star at 34. He’s not among the leading vote-getters — Anze Kopitar was the leading Kings player with a week to go in voting — but given the manner in which Budaj filled the void left by injured Jonathan Quick, he could be a sentimental pick to add local flavor for the game at Staples Center on Jan. 29.

There was no sentimentality Saturday in a game that turned ugly late. San Jose’s Joe Thornton made a two-handed slash to Kings defenseman Derek Forbort’s shoulder halfway through the third period. Thornton, who also appeared to run into Dustin Brown near the Kings’ bench, received a minor slashing penalty and the NHL could hand out supplemental discipline.


Budaj wasn’t severely tested by San Jose, with 18 saves on 20 shots. That’s because the Kings rediscovered their possession game for the first two periods. Tanner Pearson set the tone in the opening minutes with a wrist shot from the top of the circle for his ninth goal, and Drew Doughty scored on the power play in the second period.

Then Jeff Carter saved the Kings again, on the eve of his 32nd birthday. Pearson sprung him down the left wing and Carter whipped a shot past Sharks goalie Martin Jones to achieve his fifth straight 20-goal season and 11th in his 12 NHL seasons.

It was the game-winner, since San Jose made it 3-2 on rookie Kevin Labanc’s goal with 6 minutes 3 seconds remaining. The Sharks played the previous night and did not have injured defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but caveats didn’t matter to the Kings as they ended a streak of six home losses to San Jose.

“It’s a big game overall, not just because it is the San Jose Sharks, it’s [that] we need to win right now,” Pearson said.

The Kings took Sunday off after three games in four nights and a 14-game December slate.

“We showed a lot of perseverance and focus and all that stuff,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “We had a tough month in terms of everything [that went] into the schedule.”

Asked if the opening 40 minutes were a good blueprint for how they want to play, Sutter said, “We played the whole game like we want to play.”