LAS VEGAS — On what was the first day of his new hockey life, Jonathan Quick decided Sunday was a good time to turn back the clock. At least for two periods.
Not to the recent past, mind you. But when he was one of the centerpieces of the Los Angeles Kings’ run to two Stanley Cup championships and was adored by the fans at what was then known as the Staples Center.
The 37-year-old goaltender made his debut for the Vegas Golden Knights against Montreal and the fans probably remember when Quick played for the home team at T-Mobile Arena when the Kings hosted Dallas in their annual Frozen Fury preseason game in Las Vegas back in 2016 before the city had a team of its own.
He was greeted as warmly Sunday as he was six-plus years ago. As Quick said Friday after the Knights had acquired him the day before from Columbus, at least he knew where the rink was and where the home team’s dressing room was.
Quick partied like it was 2014, turning aside 25 of the 28 shots he faced in backstopping his new team to a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens as the Knights retained their first-place lead in the Pacific Division by two points over Quick’s former team, the Kings.
“Once you get out there and play, it’s a hockey game,” Quick said. “I felt pretty comfortable out there from the get-go.”
He was given a rousing ovation from the 18,049 on hand when he was introduced with the starters pregame. The ovation got even louder when he dove across his crease to deny Rem Pitlick’s one-timer, stopping the puck with his left pad in the game’s early stages.
“It’s a fun building to play in,” he said. “The warm reception, that was very nice.”
Quick was fully engaged. He cleared Josh Anderson from in front of his crease in the second period with a nice two-hander to the back. He was strong on the first stop, even when he had dropped his stick on a couple of occasions. And when there were rebounds, Quick’s teammates formed a golden cocoon around him, not giving the Habs second or third looks.
“I thought he played well,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “His puck movement is quicker than our other goalies so we’ll have to adjust to that. But I liked his game. He got the win and he gave us some big saves, including one in the 6-on-5 with 25 seconds to go.”
Quick’s teammates were also impressed.
“He did great,” said defenseman Shea Theodore, whose first-period goal opened the scoring. “I think we’ll communicate with him better as we play together more but he came up with some big saves.”
Ivan Barbashev, one of the Knights other recent acquisitions, said: “He’s a veteran goalie. He knows this league. For his first game with a new team, he did really well.”
The Knights made sure they weren’t going to have to chase this one, sprinting out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Theodore’s wrist shot from the high slot off a feed from recently-acquired Teddy Blueger that eluded Jake Allen to the stick side and a goal from Barbashev, Allen’s former St. Louis teammate, who was at the doorstep and put Jack Eichel’s pass home. It was Barbashev’s first goal with the Knights to go along with three assists in four games for Vegas.
Reilly Smith’s second period goal made it 3-0 as he was left alone in front and converted William Karlsson’s on-the-tape pass. The Canadiens struggle to play tight in their own end and opposing teams find themselves with plenty of room to operate, transition out of their end and create high-danger scoring chances.
But the Hollywood ending was not to be. Quick lost his shutout bid early in the third period, then gave up goals 35 seconds apart as Montreal stayed in it thanks to Alex Belzile and Rafael Harvey-Pinard to cut the Knights’ lead to 4-3 with 11:18 to play. Barbashev had registered his second goal of the game to answer Mike Matheson’s tally as Vegas had its three-goal lead back briefly. Barbashev’s second tally would turn out to be the game-winner.
As the Canadiens made their push, Cassidy wisely called time out to settle things down and allow Quick to re-set things.
“We lost our way for a while there,” he said, explaining why he used his timeout when he did. “This is a results-oriented business and we won the hockey game.
It’s not easy to win in this league, so you can’t be upset. We got to the finish line first. That’s the important part.”
Quick tried to do his part to achieve that goal and get the two points. In the end, he said his job is pretty simple, regardless of whose sweater he’s wearing.
“I’m a goalie,” he said. “Stop the puck. Try to win.”