LOS ANGELES (AP) — With just a few minutes left in their first game back from the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Kings appeared to be headed to yet another frustrating one-goal loss.
When that championship drive finally awoke inside the Kings, not even the Chicago Blackhawks could shut it down.
Jake Muzzin scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:37 to play, Jeff Carter had two goals and an assist, and the Kings roared back to snap their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory Wednesday night.
Tyler Toffoli tied it with 6:11 left for the defending Stanley Cup winners, who made a dynamic rally in their first game back after stumbling into the break in ninth place in the Western Conference after losing seven of eight. Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, thwarting a huge Blackhawks surge in front of Los Angeles’ net in the final minute.
“I think we needed a win real bad, and to get it against a team like Chicago is real good,” Toffoli said. “Tonight was a night that we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could win big games, and we did it.”
Andrew Shaw slipped a tricky shot past Quick for his ninth goal of the season 2:25 into the third, but Toffoli eventually answered with his 13th goal, scoring from the slot to highlight a strong first game back from a six-game absence with mononucleosis.
Moments later, Muzzin got a shot from the blue line past Corey Crawford with an apparent deflection off the stick of Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson. Crawford refused to speculate on whether he had faced interference on the last goal.
“I’m not going to talk about that, because I’d probably get fined or something,” said Crawford, who stopped 23 shots.
Quick’s big finish capped another memorable meeting between the teams that have won the last three Stanley Cup titles and four of five. The Kings eliminated the Blackhawks in an epic conference finals last summer, winning Game 7 in overtime in Chicago with Alec Martinez’s deflected goal off Nick Leddy.
“They’re a top team, and they have been for a long time,” Carter said. “Hopefully it’s a big confidence boost for us. After having some ups and downs, hopefully we can build off it and keep going.”
Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist apiece in the first period for the Blackhawks, who had won four straight regular-season games over Los Angeles. Chicago opened a six-game road trip with just its second loss in 10 games at Staples Center.
“It’s disappointing. We played 55 solid minutes of hockey,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We just made some mistakes that ended up in our own net. … We knew it was going to be a tough game, and we hung in there. It was looking pretty good for us with that 3-2 lead late in the third, but we found a way to blow it.”
The Kings played their first regular-season game since December 2011 without $69 million center Mike Richards, who was waived on Monday and demoted to the AHL on Tuesday after managing just five goals in the first 47 games.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Los Angeles got a monster performance from Carter, Richards’ longtime teammate in Philadelphia and again in Los Angeles. Carter had just his second multigoal game of the season, along with numerous near-misses and big plays.
Carter scored his first goal while skating backward after stickhandling adroitly through traffic. He tied it again in the second period after winning a puck battle with Toews and wiring a shot over prone defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Although the clubs played a penalty-free third period, the Blackhawks lamented a few borderline calls that weren’t made.
“I think (the officials) were kind of maybe playing catch-up after we got a few power plays,” Kane said. “I think we may have sat back a little bit and waited for (the Kings) to come at us. And usually when we do that, bad things happen, as you could see.”
NOTES: Richards’ streak of 224 consecutive games played for the Kings ended. He is making $7 million this season and is under contract until 2020. … The Kings open their annual Grammys road trip on Saturday, a five-game stretch beginning in Boston. … The Blackhawks are on the road until Feb. 9 while Disney on Ice takes over the United Center.
(© 2015 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)