TAMPA BAY – The Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning staged an even, well-played game, one so good that both teams deserved to celebrate victories on Saturday night.
Actually, they did.
The Lighting partied first, but their overtime goal got disallowed after officials conferred. The game then went to a shootout, and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick came up big, as he did throughout the game, to lead the Kings to a 2-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Anze Kopitar scored the shootout’s only goal, in the first round, and Quick made all three saves as he, and the Kings, earned two big points just one night after their disastrous 7-0 loss at Atlanta. The five-game road trip concludes Monday against the Florida Panthers, and the Kings now have a chance to make it a winning trip.
``It was not fun,’’ Kopitar said of the Atlanta loss, ``and it was a great bounce-back for our team. I think it showed the great character of this team, that we never let down and let it get under our skin. Hopefully we can keep it going.’’
Mostly, the Kings hope Quick can keep it going. He staged a dramatic turnaround Saturday, coming on the heels of the Atlanta game, in which he allowed three goals on 14 shots and got pulled from the game in the second period.
Quick, who made 28 saves, had a morning chat with Kings assistant general manager (and accomplished former NHL goalie) Ron Hextall, who talked to him about focus. Quick certainly showed it in one of his best outings of the season.
``Jonathan Quick was very good here tonight, right from the very start,’’ Kinsg coach Terry Murray said. ``(He was) real strong mentally, real strong with positioning, very aggressive and a big part of our win.’’
In recent days, Murray had been direct, publicly, about Quick’s shortcomings in recent games, but Quick downplayed his recent struggles, saying he just let in a couple bad goals and that he never really felt uncomfortable in net.
``It happens,’’ Quick said. ``The biggest thing is just moving forward and forgetting about it and building off this win here.’’
Quick got a little help in overtime. It appeared as though Tampa Bay had won the game when Andrej Meszaros’ shot from the blue line deflected off Sean O’Donnell and into the Kings’ net. The Lightning players filed off the bench in celebration, but Quick quickly protested that he had been interfered with in the crease.
That’s a non-reviewable call on video, but the officials conferred and, after a couple minutes, ruled that Paul Szczechura had made incidental contact with Quick just as the puck went into the net at the 1:40 mark of overtime, thus negating the goal.
``I've watched the replay,’’ Murray said, ``and I can't give you an impartial opinion, I'm sure, but when I look at it, with my experience, it is the correct call. O'Donnell did not cross-check him. He did not push him in. There has to be an attempt by the player to stop, and Quick got turned sideways on the play. It's the correct call, in my view of it.’’
Quite naturally, that sentiment was not shared by the Lightning.
Szczechura said, ``Looking at the replay, I was obviously pushed into the goalie.’’
``It was a terrible call,’’ Tampa Bay goalie Antero Niittymaki said. ``We won that game. I don’t know what happened there. I really don’t know. ... I guess everybody makes mistakes.’’
Niittymaki was Quick’s equal, as he stopped 29 shots and got beat only once in regulation, with his team shorthanded.
Drew Doughty scored the Kings’ only regulation goal, a 4-on-3 power-play goal that broke a scoreless tie 7:20 into the third. Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone tied it at the 11:39 mark when he picked up a rebound behind the Kings net and scored on a wraparound.
Other than that, the game was a tight, intense affair, more befitting division rivals than two teams from opposite coasts that rarely play each other. There was one fight, and a lot of heavy hitting, in the first period, and an incident in the third period in which the Kings’ Wayne Simmonds and Zenon Konopka each got 10-minute misconduct penalties.
``That was probably one of the more physical teams in the East Coast,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``Obviously we've only played a couple, but they've got some big D and some physical D. I think it was pretty evenly matched physically.
``I think we're OK when it comes to physical play. We play against San Jose and Anaheim six times a year, so playing against those kinds of teams prepares you for physical games.’’
The only negative on the night for the Kings was the loss of defenseman Rob Scuderi, who left the game in the first period with a lower-leg injury. Scuderi is officially considered day to day, and Murray said he did not know the extent of the injury.