Former Kings goalie Jonathan Quick received a warm welcome in his return to Los Angeles, but his New York Rangers ultimately fell 2-1 to his former team. A third-period goal by young Kings center Quinton Byfield proved to be the difference.
Emotional Pregame Tribute for Quick
The stage was set for an emotional night when the Rangers rolled into Crypto.com Arena to face the Kings on January 20th. Starting in goal for New York was Jonathan Quick, making his long-awaited return to Los Angeles after a blockbuster offseason trade sent him to the Rangers last summer.
Quick had become a legendary figure during his 15-year run in LA, backstopping the team to Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014. As he took the ice for warmups, a tribute video played on the jumbotron highlighting his decorated tenure. The 36-year-old netminder received a loud ovation and stuck taps with his former teammates. 
“It was very nice of them,” Quick said of the tribute. “They didn’t have to do that. I thoroughly enjoyed playing here.” 
|Jonathan Quick’s Career with the LA Kings
|649 games played (1st in franchise history)
|335 wins (1st)
|2 Stanley Cup championships
|2 Jennings Trophies
|1 Conn Smythe Trophy
Table 1: Quick’s decorated 15-year run with the Kings cemented his legacy as a franchise icon. His return to Los Angeles was an emotional night.
Though sentimental about returning to LA, Quick was laser-focused on the task at hand once the puck dropped. “As soon as the game started, got into it and tried to get the job done,” he remarked. 
Low-Scoring Goaltender’s Duel Through Two Periods
Backing up Quick was Russian sensation Igor Shesterkin, providing the Rangers with a formidable tandem in goal. But Kings netminder Pheonix Copley, making just his fourth start of the year, was equally sharp out of the gates.
The first period played out as a tense goaltending duel, with both Copley and Quick turning aside all shots through the opening 20 minutes.  Accustomed to facing a high volume of shots in New York’s run-and-gun system, Quick seemed rejuvenated by the low-stress first period. “It’s kind of nice once in a while to only face 4-5 shots and let them do a lot of the work,” he quipped in the intermission. 
The scoreless draw persisted through 40 minutes. Both goalies were perfect on 12 shots apiece heading into the third. For the Rangers, the recipe remained simple: generate offense and let Quick do the rest. “We just need to get to our game,” said alternate captain Chris Kreider. 
SOG Through 2 Periods
Table 2: A tight goaltending duel kept the game scoreless through 40 minutes.
Byfield Strikes Late as Kings Spoil Quick’s Return
The deadlock finally broke near the midway point of the third, as the Kings cashed in on a Rangers defensive breakdown. Quinton Byfield corralled a loose puck off a broken play initiated by Anze Kopitar and beat Quick short side to put Los Angeles on top 1-0. 
“We just got running around a little bit and they made us pay,” said Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant. 
Byfield’s tally held up as the winner, but the Rangers did break through shortly after on a Chris Kreider deflection to make it 2-1. The Rangers poured on the pressure over the dying minutes, but Copley and the Kings defense locked it down. A late empty netter by Blake Lizotte sealed a 3-1 victory for Los Angeles. 
Table 3: Byfield’s 3rd period marker lifted the Kings over the Rangers 3-1, spoiling Quick’s LA return.
The loss extended the Rangers’ road losing skid to five games. “We’re just coming up a little short right now,” said team captain Jacob Trouba. 
For Quick, despite being on the wrong side of the scoresheet, the night still carried deep personal meaning. “The fans were always great to me,” Quick said, reflecting fondly on his time in Los Angeles.  Though his return concluded as a loss, the Kings icon was appreciative of the outpouring of support.
“It was special having Quicker back,” said Kopitar. “He’s done so much for this organization. I’m sure he’ll get a nice tribute next time we’re in New York.” 
The Rangers will look to halt their road skid Monday night against the Ducks in Anaheim. Despite Saturday’s loss, Gallant was encouraged by his team’s effort against a stingy Kings squad. “We played well. There were just a couple breakdowns that cost us.” 
With the NHL trade deadline just over a month away, the Rangers find themselves at an interesting crossroads. Holding the final Wild Card spot in the East, do they become deadline buyers and load up for a playoff run? Or do they move veterans like Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Lindgren for futures and retool on the fly? 
For the Kings, Saturday’s gutsy win moved them into first place in the Pacific Division. Rookie phenom Byfield is settling into his role centering the second line, giving LA a potent one-two punch with Kopitar. With over $12 million in deadline cap space per CapFriendly, Kings GM Rob Blake could look to add a scoring winger to bolster his group. Names like Timo Meier, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Drouin will surely be in his crosshairs. 
One thing is certain: though their first meeting of 2024 ended in Rangers defeat, the emotional return of Jonathan Quick gave hockey fans a night to remember in Los Angeles. Both clubs appear playoff-bound once again this spring. Could the iconic goalie lead his new team to another magical Cup Final run? Or will the red-hot Kings shock the league with a deep postseason push? The storylines abound as the playoff races heat up across the NHL.
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