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Quick, Kings shut down Hurricanes

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Jonathan Quick doesn't need much of a lead to close the door on the opponent. It's just that giving him that lead doesn't always come easy for the Los Angeles Kings.

L.A. looked downright ugly on its first five power plays Saturday, but finally broke through on the sixth when Alec Martinez scored the tie-breaking goal 8:15 into the third period and went on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1.

Dustin Brown's rebound came out to Martinez, who shot it past two Hurricanes screening goalie Anton Khudobin. Justin Williams scored an empty-net goal with 61 seconds left and Quick made 24 saves as the Kings, who lost eight of 10 before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, improved to 3-0-0 coming out of the break.

The past two wins have been their type of game; Martinez said the tight Western Conference race facilitates their style of play late in the season, just as it did during the run to the Stanley Cup in 2012.

"We're experienced that way, we know what it takes," Martinez said. "It's just a matter of going out and doing it. You've got to play playoff hockey going into the playoffs. You can't just flip the switch. The year that we won it, that's what we did. That's what we've got to do now."

It was the third win in four nights for the Kings. Coach Darryl Sutter is constantly preoccupied with getting his team rest, particularly Quick, and he said it helped that Quick was able to get through the Olympics and come back rested. Quick did not play in their first game back Wednesday.

"So he felt fresh and the four guys that got back late, a day off yesterday," Sutter said. "I was more worried, not worried, but the concern was [that] Jeff [Carter] and Drew [Doughty] more than anybody else because they played the longest and played last."

Carolina (26-25-9) is 0-3-0 since the Olympics and has fallen seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings, who own the final wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have scored four goals in the three losses and visit the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks before returning home to play the New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Hurricanes killed seven penalties in their previous game, a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, and coach Kirk Muller said his team can't keep filling the penalty box and expect to win.

"That was pretty much the difference in the game," Muller said. "I thought our guys played hard, but if you're going to give six or seven power plays to the other team, eventually it's going to hurt you. That was a big goal that they scored, finally. Two things: We didn't stay out of the box and it cost us and we didn't capitalize when we had some good scoring chances."

Carolina got a fortunate bounce to get a 1-1 tie after the first period. Andrej Sekera's put-it-on-net shot from the left point glanced off the stick of Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr and went past Quick at 19:45.

It came 41 seconds after Mike Richards scored his second goal since before Thanksgiving, on a sharp angle wrist shot from the right circle that hit a Carolina player's stick and went in off the shoulder of Khudobin at 19:04. The Kings won a scrum down low to keep the puck in and it came out to Regehr to feed Richards, who last goal came Jan. 18.

L.A. had opportunity for more goals early but its 27th-ranked power-play unit struggled with 8:21 minutes worth of power-play time in the first 40 minutes. Carolina defenseman Mike Komisarek was guilty of three minor penalties, but L.A. failed to put a shot on net during a 69-second 4-on-3 power play and had a total of two shots on three other advantages.

Captain Eric Staal liked how the Hurricanes got through the deluge of penalties.

"Against any team, you don't want to be in the penalty box as much as we were," Staal said. "But we continued to fight and compete. I think we did a good job for the most part, battling, and keeping pucks to the outside. They get one bounce up the middle and they get a break. Sometimes, that's the way it's called."

The Hurricanes couldn't generate much, either. They got a 3-on-1 in the second but Quick kicked out Staal's shot. Quick also made a point-blank stop on Jeff Skinner in the third. The Hurricanes haven't scored a power-play goal in eight straight road games.

"It just seems like we're finding ways not to win games and not to get points," Riley Nash said. "I think once we get into the swing of things going in the right direction, it should be contagious."

Carolina forward Alexander Semin sat out with a lower-body injury sustained in Dallas. Muller said the medical staff will assess it Sunday and "see if we can get him in the lineup."

The Hurricanes played their first game in L.A. since Oct. 20, 2010. Wayne Gretzky was in attendance.

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