Peter Budaj has been making the most of his opportunity to be a No. 1 goalie this season. And on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, the 34-year-old netminder was brilliant.
Budaj stopped 22 shots and his Los Angeles Kings killed off the final four penalties to win 3-0 in their last game before the All-Star break.
It was scoreless until the final five minutes, when Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis both beat Cam Ward in a span of 38 seconds. Kyle Clifford added the last goal into an empty net.
"Both teams had a similar game out there," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Our penalty kill was real good. There were two good defensive teams, two good checking teams tonight."
Budaj, who hadn't been a consistent starter in the NHL since the 2008-09 season with Colorado, completed the first shutout against Carolina this season. Jonathan Quick, the Kings' regular starter, has missed 48 games with a groin injury.
It was the second straight win for the Kings, who lost their previous meeting with Carolina 3-1 at home on Dec. 8. This time, Budaj (22-14-3) earned his fifth shutout of the season and 16th of his career.
"So far, so good," Budaj said. "I've been blessed to play this many games, and the team is playing well in front of me. Carolina has a lot of skill, and our guys took a lot of their lanes away with their sticks. They play a great team game and we knew we'd have to be sharp. They have a lot of young, skilled players who can make you pay."
Ward finished with 26 saves for Carolina, which has lost five straight — all in regulation.
"It's a bad taste," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "I think tonight's going to go a long way to leaving a taste. The taste is in the mouth for the All-Star break. We'll get back to work in practice, and it'll be like starting over."
Carolina fell to 14-3-1 in its last 18 home games.
Gaborik broke the scoreless tie on a backhand from the low slot at 15:17 of the third. Drew Doughty had the primary assist, giving him a four-game point streak.
"This was huge," said Doughty, the veteran defenseman who is set to play in his third straight All-Star Game on Sunday back home in Los Angeles. "We really needed that. It was a great win. I thought they outplayed us maybe the first two periods, but Budaj made some great saves to keep us in it and we came with a flurry at the end."
Less than a minute later, Lewis took a stretch pass from Devin Setoguchi and beat a frustrated Ward.
Clifford added the empty-netter with 2:25 remaining.
The Kings outshot the Hurricanes 8-7 during a scoreless first period in which Los Angeles was penalized twice and Carolina once.
Each team had nine shots in the second, when the Kings were whistled for a pair of penalties and the Hurricanes none.
NOTES: Carolina D Justin Faulk is scheduled to play in the All-Star Game, his fourth trip to the event. ... Kings C Jeff Carter (second appearance) also is set to play in the All-Star Game on his home ice. ... Kings D Matt Greene missed his fourth straight game with an undisclosed injury and C Nic Dowd (lower body) his third. D Tom Gilbert was a healthy scratch. ... Carolina RW Ty Rattie, D Ryan Murphy and D Matt Tennyson were healthy scratches.
Kings: Visit the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night, the last of five straight games on the road.
Hurricanes: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.