For someone who hadn't played for seven-and-a-half weeks and 24 games, Jonathan Quick looked pretty sharp Saturday night.
Quick was supposed to spend the weekend on a rehab assignment with the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, as he recovered from a lower-body injury. But bad weather in the East forced a change in plans. Instead, Quick was activated from the injured reserve list and returned to the ice at Staples Center against the Vancouver Canucks.
The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner looked sharp despite not seeing game action of any kind since he was injured on Nov. 12, stopping 27 shots in a 3-1 victory.
"If I was feeling rust, I wouldn't have told them I was ready to go," Quick said when asked about not having played since he went down during overtime of a game against the Buffalo Sabres.
He certainly didn't look rusty.
The Canucks came out firing, testing Quick seven times in the first eight minutes. The most alarming was a stop on defenseman Kevin Bieksa 7:43 into the game on which he had to do a split.
GAA: 2.27 | SVP: 0.909
Quick felt being tested early was a good thing for him.
"No matter what, it's always good to see a few shots early," he said. "It gets you in the game. That was the case for both goalies tonight. We saw a good amount of shots early, and it got us into the game."
Named to the U.S. Olympic Team on Wednesday despite his absence, Quick allowed a power-play goal to Ryan Kesler 12:27 into the game but was perfect for the rest of the night – including two breathtaking stops on Daniel Sedin in the final seconds before Carter's empty-netter sealed the win.
Quick had traveled with the team on a four-game trip though the Midwest that ended Thursday in St. Louis. He was supposed to fly to Manchester and play there, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he was actually happy that Quick's weekend in New England was snowed out.
"He was going to play last night and tonight or last night and tomorrow [with Manchester], and then I wasn't crazy about it because he was going to have to fly all day Monday to play Tuesday," Sutter said. "So once he got weathered out, I just talked to him after St. Louis [a 5-0 loss on Thursday], and he said he'd be ready.
"Once he was weathered out he was coming home with us, and he was going to play games there, so that meant he was ready to play."
The Kings trailed 1-0 after two periods despite outplaying the Canucks through 40 minutes but scored three times in the third period for the win, which ended a five-game losing streak.
"The team played great in front of me," Quick said. "I gave up a couple of rebounds, and the guys cleared them out. We kept fighting and got a couple of breaks."
Having Quick back in goal was an emotional boost for a team that was mired in its worst slump of the season.
"When you get the best goalie in the world back in your lineup, it always gives you a boost," said captain Dustin Brown, who scored the tying goal early in the third period. "We've been losing games – and that's not because of [backups] Ben Scrivens or Martin Jones – it's because we haven't been playing good. So when you get a key player like Quickie coming back into the lineup it can give your team a boost.
"It didn't look like he missed seven weeks, that's for sure."