On an evening that the Calgary Flames honoured Canadian Olympians in a pregame ceremony, the night was spoiled by a pair of players from the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist and Jonathan Quick made 25 saves as the Los Angeles Kings made it back-to-back wins Thursday night with a 2-0 victory over the Flames.
“They had a good Olympics too,” said King head coach Darryl Sutter. “They make a big deal of it in the States because they don’t win a medal but these guys all got to go and represent their country and the way they did it, especially our guys, they did an awesome job so they came back in a good frame of mind.”
Quick was steady all night in collecting his third shutout of the season and 29th of his career. He was especially sharp through the opening 40 minutes as Calgary built up a 23-13 edge in shots but trailed 1-0.
“The first star of the game was Jonathan, no doubt about it,” said former Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr. “He was very solid, even though we were on our heels a little bit. He made the saves that we really needed him too.”
Brown opened the scoring three minutes into the game, then helped the Kings get an important insurance goal, setting up Dwight King 3:30 into the third period. In the final 20 minutes, the Kings got back to their trademark stifling defence, outshooting the Flames 11-2 to secure the victory.
“It was a great, great third period, exactly what we were looking for,” said Quick, who improves to 17-13-2. “It was a solid, road period where you don’t give up much and you make them work to gain zones. And scoring a goal at the beginning of the period was huge to give us a little bit more of a gap.”
Los Angeles (33-22-6) has won three in a row including its first two games after the Olympic break. They opened their short two-game road trip with a 6-4 victory in Colorado on Wednesday night.
In third place in the Pacific Division, the victory increases the Kings lead over the Vancouver Canucks to seven points.
Calgary (22-30-7), which went into the break on a 6-1-1 tear, lost for the first time at home in six weeks. The Flames had won their last five games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“First two periods, I definitely thought we were the better team,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano, while adding that Quick was the difference. “He made some great saves. He fought through some screens and tips. There’s nothing you can do. He was playing well, our guys were going to the net, our guys were fighting. But we couldn’t find a way to get that one.”
The story line for the Flames was the NHL debut of two of their top prospects - both of them Finns.
Making his NHL debut in net was Joni Ortio, who was called up from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League when fellow Finn Karri Ramo went down with a knee injury on Feb. 1. Ortio backed up Reto Berra for the final three games before the Olympic break.
“I felt good, but I can’t be totally satisfied, of course, because it’s always my goal to beat the goalie at the other end and that didn’t happen tonight,” said Ortio, who had 22 stops.
The 22-year-old had been playing excellent hockey with the Heat where he had compiled a 20-6-0 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
“I felt good all day. I was kind of anxious during the day but as soon as I got back to the rink, I was all good,” Ortio said.
Also making his NHL debut was 20-year-old Markus Granlund, Calgary’s second round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Granlund logged 7:14 in ice time, centring the Flames fourth line with Paul Byron and rugged Kevin Westgarth. In his limited time, the younger brother of Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund, looked impressive registering two shots on goal.
As a rookie in the AHL, Granlund is tied for fourth in the league in goals with 23 in 50 games.
The Flames were playing their first game in 19 days and the rust showed early. On his second shift, defenceman steady Kris Russell bobbled the puck deep in his own end with it being promptly intercepted by Brown who darted to the net and stuffed a backhand behind Ortio.
“I think our mistakes got magnified tonight because their goalie didn’t give up one,” said Giordano.
One of Calgary’s best chances to the tie it came late in the second period when it got its first power play. The Flames controlled the puck in the LA zone for the entire two minutes but they could not solve Quick.
Notes: Calgary D Chris Butler (lower body) left the game halfway through the second period... Injured Flames Brian McGrattan (upper body) and Curtis Glencross (ankle) are back practising but have not yet been cleared for contact... The Kings scratched assistant captain Matt Greene, Matt Frattin and Tanner Pearson... Former Flames D Robyn Regehr played against his former team for the first time since being traded June 25, 2011. Regehr has played the second most games in Flames history (826)... Ortio, 22, is the youngest goaltender to start a game for the Flames since Jean-Sebastien Giguere on Feb. 12, 2000.