LOS ANGELES - The crowd chants went from "Looooooo!" to "Luuuuuonnngo," and that wasn't a good sign for the Vancouver Canucks.
Roberto Luongo was perfect through two periods, delighting a vocal group of Vancouver fans at Staples Center, but the Los Angeles Kings and Jonathan Quick rallied for a 3-1 win on Saturday night in a battle of All-Star goaltenders returning from injuries.
Jeff Carter beat Luongo high to the glove side from the right circle at 12:05 of the third for the go-ahead goal to help L.A. snap a five-game losing streak in coach Darryl Sutter's 1,000th game. It neatly fit the bounce-back narrative in Quick's first game since a strained his groin Nov. 12 nearly threatened his availability for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Quick finished with 27 saves; Luongo made 46.
"We know what Quickie is. We know what he does," Carter said. "The first game back, I thought he was sharp. He made some big saves in the first period … Quickie did what Quickie does."
Quick was activated from injured reserve shortly before game time but had told coaches days ago that he was ready. He helped preserve the win with a doorstop save on Daniel Sedin in the final minute before Carter scored an empty-net goal with 9.5 seconds remaining.
"When I said I was ready, that meant I was ready to do it," Quick said. "You don't come in feeling 80 percent. If that was the case, I wouldn't have sat out the first two months. I felt 100 percent. If it looked like I was struggling out there, I made a wrong decision."
Vancouver has looked physically overmatched in its two visits in L.A. this season, and it was evident on the game-winner. Dwight King made the play happen when he took the puck from Jason Garrison on the right side and got it to Carter.
"I gave him a yell, and he made a heck of a play there," Carter said. "That's what he's been doing lately for us. He's an unbelievable player. When he skates like that and uses his size, he's got more skill than people think."
It was Luongo's first game back after he missed three with a groin injury, and he gave up a goal to one of the best wrist shots in the League. Luongo has lost six straight (0-4-2) to the Kings dating to the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
"It was a quick play," Luongo said. "Carter released it quick. It went through our d-man. But you've got to give him credit. It's a good shot. But I would like to maybe get a foot there and maybe get a piece of that. Sometimes you've got to give the other player credit as well for a good shot."
Luongo stopped the first 36 shots he faced before he directed a rebound to Dustin Brown, who slammed it into the open net and pinballed into Luongo 1:07 into the third period to tie it 1-1. Luongo was struck high by Brown's leg and stayed down for a few moments before he collected himself.
Quick was tested early, specifically on a hold-your-breath splits-save on Kevin Bieksa 7:43 into the game.
"I think he made one [save] earlier there, and he looked pretty good to me, so I think all doubts were gone by then," Carter said.
Quick faced seven shots in the first eight minutes and was helpless on Vancouver's goal.
Daniel Sedin threaded a pass across the slot to Ryan Kesler, who stopped the puck and fired top shelf for a power-play goal at 12:27. Carter was serving one of his two first-period penalties, and it marked the fifth time in six games L.A. allowed a power-play goal.
The Kings had an 18-6 shot advantage in the second period but couldn't get a puck past Luongo, who made key saves on Matt Frattin and Anze Kopitar.
Vancouver coach John Tortorella pointed to a second-period power play in which his team didn't record a shot as a turning point.
"After that power play, it was an uphill battle," Tortorella said. "They just came at us."
The Canucks could have jumped over the Kings for third in the Pacific Division but are learning some hard lessons in realignment. Vancouver is 6-5-3 in the Pacific.
"In our division we are going to have to learn to battle hard, and it starts with our forwards, as far as the forecheck," Tortorella said. "Our D was under siege all night ling. If we are going to compete in our division in the second half of this year, we need to be more consistent."
Sutter usually downplays individual milestones, particularly his own, but he let his guard down at the end of his press conference when asked if he still has fun coaching.
"Absolutely. I don't have to coach, right?" Sutter said. "You only have one kick at the cat. You're trying to win. What's wrong? And that's true with the warranty. You don't have to go buy a brand new truck. Why don't you buy one that's had good maintenance, a hundred thousand miles run off of it already, it's still good. Take care of it. Take care of the engine."
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