LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings have returned from the Olympic break with a revitalized game and a sharpened playoff focus.
The Carolina Hurricanes have neither, and they realize they're running out of time to get it.
Alec Martinez scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play with 11:45 to play, Quick made 24 saves, and the Kings beat the Hurricanes 3-1 Saturday for their third victory in four days since the break.
Mike Richards scored his second goal since late November and Justin Williams added an empty-net goal for Los Angeles, which has roared out of the break with three wins in three cities in about 70 hours. The low-scoring Kings put up eight goals at Colorado and Calgary before holding off Carolina in their return to Staples Center.
After five scoreless power plays in the first two periods, the Kings finally converted on their sixth. Captain Dustin Brown got the puck behind the Carolina net and fed it to Martinez, who blasted a shot from the slot for his first goal since Jan. 9.
"It's no secret we weren't happy with our game before the break started," Martinez said. "We worked on a lot of things, and we knew that when we came back, this would be crunch-time, playoff hockey."
After two straight trips to the Western Conference finals and a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, the Kings know a few things about postseason grit — and they know they'll need it just to reach the playoffs this time.
Los Angeles had a 1-8-1 stretch shortly before the Olympic break, falling back to the pack in the conference playoff race. The Kings are thoroughly revived after their time off and an eventful Olympics, which included gold medals for Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter along with two surprising victories for Slovenia and Anze Kopitar.
The rest of the Kings got several days off and several more days of practice, and both appear to be paying off.
"We've got to bring our best every night right now," Quick said.
The Kings have won four straight overall, and Quick appears to be in top form after starting for the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi. He followed up his shutout of the Flames on Thursday with another strong performance against the Canes, including a handful of spectacular saves over the final two periods.
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