-- Playing their first game after a week-long stay in Europe and a five-day break that included three days in Maryland, the Los Angeles Kings
had differing opinions on their energy level during a 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils
on Thursday night.
didn't think the Kings were sluggish at all, that they generated enough consistent pressure. Coach Terry Murray
saw it another way, saying his team started strong but "hit a bit of a wall" during the final two periods.
Something on which they both agreed, however, was that goaltender Jonathan Quick
was the reason the Kings left Prudential Center with a consolation point. He made 36 saves, including 15 during the third period and overtime, to prevent his road-weary team from leaving empty-handed.
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"I'm not satisfied with it," Murray said about getting just a point. "Give Jonathan Quick
a lot of credit. He got the point here for us tonight. He was very big at the right time."
"He's really solid," Kopitar said. "He's really composed, he never panics. That's what you want. If he gives you a chance every night, that's all you can ask for."
Quick was named the game's first star in a losing effort, a rarity on the road where local media does the voting for stars of the game. The award will be forgotten before he boards a train to head to Philadelphia for the team's next game against the Flyers on Saturday, but Quick has been delivering memorable performances for the Kings for more than three seasons now when many thought his stay in the NHL would be temporary.
It started when he broke he onto the scene during the 2008-09 season, posting a respectable 21-18-2 record and .914 save percentage for a Kings team that finished 26th in the League standings with 79 points.
The 25-year-old from Milford, Conn., was supposed to be holding a spot for Jonathan Bernier
, the Kings super-prospect taken with the 11th pick in the 2006 Entry Draft who many experts felt would be the No. 1 goaltender in Los Angeles by now.
Instead, Quick, a third-round pick in 2005, has secured that job with 74 wins the previous two seasons and a save percentage north of .910. He's coming off a career-best season in 2010-11 where he sported a 2.24 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
While his game has developed, Kopitar says absolutely nothing has changed about Quick's demeanor or confidence level since the two became teammates in 2007-08.
"To be honest, I don't think he's changed too much since he first got here," Kopitar said. "He was always composed in the net. Obviously, he learned the game a little more up here. He learned the players, learned the shooters. That's what every player has to do when start playing with the big boys. He's been great for us."
Quick was sensational Thursday against the Devils. He stopped a pair of breakaways with the game tied at 1-1; David Clarkson
was denied on a backhand try in the second period, then Ilya Kovalchuk
was turned aside during the third period.
"He's really composed, he never panics. That's what you want. If he gives you a chance every night, that's all you can ask for." -- Anze Kopitar on goalie Jonathan Quick
The trend continued in overtime, as Quick shut down Elias with 8 seconds remaining to send the game to a shootout. Surprisingly, Quick faltered in the shootout, allowing two goals on two shots by Elias and Zach Parise
. Entering the shootout, Quick was 22-7 in his career and 10-0 last season.
Still, the Devils came away impressed with the performance.
"He was the first star for a reason," Parise said. "He played really well and was very tough to beat."
"I kind of enjoyed it. It's a fun challenge," said winning goalie Johan Hedberg
of facing Quick, although he was unaware of his counterpart's shootout dominance. "He was tough to beat."
The praise from the competition and single point, however, wasn't lifting the spirits of Quick following the loss.
Goalie - LAK
GAA: 1.40 | SVP: 0.952
"We definitely have to be better. I know that for sure," Quick said. "At moments we were playing our game and playing really well. At times, though, we got away from it a little bit. We just need to refocus here. We've got a big game against Philly in a couple of days.
"Obviously it's good to get a point, but at the end of the day, we want two. We came up a little short."
Kopitar may not have seen a change in Quick, but Murray believes his goaltender has done a lot of growing up over the years, and it's why he's now entrenched as the team's No. 1 goaltender.
"Maturity is the right word," Murray said. "He really understands, where you’re coming from overseas and it might be hard here tonight, coming into another building that’s very hungry, going through what (the Devils) went through last year (missing the playoffs). They were ready to play and came out with a lot of energy, really competed hard.
"He understands that now, as a young goaltender, and he battled through a lot."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo