There were some key storylines leading up to the Los Angeles Kings' afternoon game. They all worked out nicely for LA, and the result was a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers where ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED.
The biggest storyline? Jonathan Quick, looking to break Rogie Vachon's franchise record for victories. It took a while for Quick to tie the record, but he only needed one attempt to break it. And he did it with a flourish, stopping all 24 shots for his 30th career shutout. A handful of the saves were spectacular, including an impressive reflex save on a deflected Scottie Upshall shot that prompted Bob Miller to make a Gumby reference. But this one on Tomas Fleischmann was his best of the game, and one of his best of the season.
Quick didn't need to be perfect tonight, but he was.
Also drawing intrigue was yesterday's decision by Darryl Sutter to team wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli with Jeff Carter. While Toffoli has been in a top-six role for a few weeks and has largely justified his role, Pearson's promotion was a bit of a surprise, even coming off of a strong game. His response tonight was to play an even better game. Pearson helped drive the Kings offense, made a few very strong moves, drew a penalty, and was a little bit unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. He still only played 12:48, but it was a strong showing.
The first line was also kept off the board today at even strength, so who did the scoring today? It was the bottom six... including Mike Richards. The maligned forward scored his ninth goal of the season on a confident move from the corner, moving to the middle and beating Roberto Luongo five-hole. Trevor Lewis got an assist on that play, which was his second point of the night; Lewis had scored earlier, knocking in a puck which had deflected off of Kyle Clifford in front.
The Luongo chants got loud there. They were even louder when captain Dustin Brown scored the Kings' third goal in the second period. Jarret Stoll (yep, another underachieving forward!) deked Luongo and hit the post from a sharp angle, but the puck bounced conveniently to Brown in front. Brown made no mistake, and the Kings were up 3-0. However, Brown had picked up some sort of upper-body injury right before scoring that goal, and he would not take another shift for the remainder of the game.
After the struggling forwards put the Kings ahead, a hot defenseman sealed the deal in the third period. Alec Martinez took the puck on a power play, and he slowly drifted in from the sideboards before sniping a shot short side in the corner. Luongo didn't play it all that well, probably because he was expecting a pass, but it was still a superb shot. The Panthers had their share of scoring chances down the stretch, but it wouldn't have made a difference on Quick's record-setting night.