LOS ANGELES — Jonathan Quick’s last season opener ended in the first period, and his groin injury kept him out for the Los Angeles Kings’ next 59 games.
After a long offseason and a coaching change, the Kings’ star goalie went back to work with a vintage performance.
Quick made 35 saves in the first season-opening shutout of his career, and the Kings won in new head coach John Stevens’ debut, 2-0 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli scored for the Kings, who immediately got a stellar game from their well-rested goalie. Quick was outstanding in the third period, making 17 saves and surviving a series of short-handed situations to post the seventh October shutout of his career.
“He’s unbelievable,” Lewis said. “He does it every night, and we see it every day in practice. You almost get used to it. It’s nice to have him back.”
Quick didn’t return until late February after getting hurt in last season’s opener. The Kings missed the playoffs for the second time in three years, leading to coach Darryl Sutter’s firing and the promotion of Stevens, Sutter’s longtime assistant and the former Philadelphia head coach.
“With a new staff, that’s different, but this group has had a lot of success,” Stevens said. “I think they’re a little bit anxious to get going after what’s happened the last couple of years, and I think that has created a lot of excitement on our hockey team, so I’d like to see that continue.”
While the Kings have new speed and youth alongside their veteran stars, they actually played a sturdy, defensively proficient opener that often looked an awful lot like something Sutter would appreciate.
Michal Neuvirth stopped 25 shots for Philadelphia, which followed up its season-opening win at San Jose with a frustrating offensive night.
“Every line was doing the right thing out there,” captain Claude Giroux said. “Tonight we just ran into a hot goalie. He’s not too bad.”
After a scoreless first period highlighted by Neuvirth’s stunning glove save on Kings captain Anze Kopitar, Lewis put Los Angeles ahead midway through the second on a setup from Nick Shore. Toffoli scored with 2:21 to play on a pass from former Flyers forward Jeff Carter.
“It’s a back-to-back, and that’s tough to have in the second day of the season,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We still generated quite a bit, but we couldn’t find a way to put one in the back of the net.”
Stevens took over the Kings this summer after serving as an assistant for the previous seven seasons, winning two Stanley Cup rings as Sutter’s defensive specialist. Before heading to LA, Stevens coached the Flyers for parts of four seasons from 2006-10, leading them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2008.
Stevens didn’t want the game puck, however: Three Kings also made their NHL debuts.
Alex Iafallo, a speedy 23-year-old forward from Minnesota-Duluth, skated on Los Angeles’ top line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown in his first professional hockey game after winning a roster spot in camp. Defensemen Oscar Fantenberg and Kurtis MacDermid also got their first shot with the Kings, who want to be faster and younger in the post-Sutter era.
NOTES: Staples Center observed a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting. They included 22-year-old Christina Duarte, who started work with the Kings this summer as a fan service associate. The Kings wore a sticker on their helmets bearing her initials, “CD,” inside a heart. … D Travis Sanheim made his NHL debut for the Flyers, who picked him in the first round in 2014. … D Alec Martinez, the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup Final hero, missed the opener with a lower-body injury. … Scott Laughton led the Flyers with five shots. Toffoli had seven for the Kings.
Flyers: At Ducks on Saturday.
Kings: At Sharks on Saturday.
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