DENVER (AP) — Balanced scoring. Exceptional goaltending. A penalty-killing unit on top of its game.
Now this looks way more like the Los Angeles Kings club that hoisted the Stanley Cup last season. Just in time, too, with the playoffs drawing near.
Jeff Carter scored twice and Jonathan Quick stopped 42 shots, helping the Kings extend their winning streak to six games with a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown also scored for the Kings, who are firmly back on track and in playoff contention after scuffling a few weeks ago.
Not that they were ever all that concerned. At least defenseman Drew Doughty wasn’t.
“We weren’t playing even close to our capability,” said Doughty, who had two assists. “We’re seeing what we can do when everyone starts to perform. We’re happy with the way we’re playing now. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep winning. We have a lot of work left to do.”
Quick looked as though he was in postseason form as he turned back shot after shot. Everything the Avalanche threw at him, he turned aside.
“We know what Quickie’s going to do, make some huge saves throughout the game for us,” Toffoli said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have finished the game where we were. He comes up big for us when we need it, and we score big goals for him.”
Gabriel Landeskog netted the lone goal for the Avalanche, who dropped what coach Patrick Roy said after the morning practice was a “big game for us.”
Colorado wrapped up a four-game homestand with a 2-2 record and lost more ground in the standings.
“They played well but we’re happy with our game,” forward Matt Duchene said. “We outshot them, we out-chanced them but we only scored one goal. Even though the goals weren’t there, the chances were.
“We were buzzing and playing hard. We’re going to win a lot of games down the stretch if we play like that.”
Trailing by two goals, Colorado pulled Semyon Varlamov for an extra skater with just under three minutes remaining. But Alex Tanguay drew a penalty with 1:39 remaining to negate the advantage. Varlamov stayed on the bench, leading to Carter’s empty-net goal with 52.3 seconds left.
Quick helped the Kings weather back-to-back penalties midway through the third period, the first on Nick Shore for hooking and, just as that was about to expire, another on Robyn Regehr for boarding. The Avalanche are last in the NHL at home on the power play.
Varlamov made 22 saves in his 14th straight start. He is 6-6-2 during that stretch.
“There were two top goalies playing tonight — Varlamov was tough to solve, and Jonathan was tough to solve,” said Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter, whose team will play an outdoor game against San Jose on Saturday.
With the Kings down a goal early in the second, Carter deflected a shot by Toffoli from near the blue line past Varlamov. Just over five minutes later, Toffoli gave the Kings a 2-1 lead when he skated in on Varlamov and stuffed the puck past the goalie’s right pad.
But the Kings weren’t done, with Brown adding an insurance goal late in the second period off a feed from Doughty from behind the net.
Landeskog gave the Avalanche the early lead when he found a tiny hole between the right post and Quick’s stick 3:09 in. The captain has scored a goal in four straight games.
“It’s definitely frustrating and disappointing,” Landeskog said of the loss. “It was a big game.”
NOTES: Growing up in Denver, Shore was a big Avalanche fan and attended quite a few games. He also played college hockey down the street at the University of Denver. “It’s nice being back,” Shore said. “You don’t really get to play in front of family and friends very often.” Shore made his NHL debut on Jan. 17. He is still searching for his first NHL goal. … Los Angeles D Alec Martinez missed a fifth straight game due to an upper-body injury. … The Kings are 22-4-4 when allowing two goals or fewer this season. … The Avalanche will play in Chicago on Friday.
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