FINAL – Kings 4, Avalanche 2 – Vilardi, Kopitar, Kempe, McLellan

In the first half of the game, it felt like Colorado might have been about to blow this thing open, with a two-goal lead already in hand. Then the Avalanche took a pair of penalties 40 seconds apart. Then Drew Doughty wired home a 5-on-3 goal. Then the Kings began to surge back.

Gabe Vilardi scored the second power-play goal of the game for the Kings later in the second period, before Adrian Kempe put home the game-winning goal late in the third. After Blake Lizotte iced the game with an empty netter, the Kings earned their first victory of the season, in comeback fashion.

Jonathan Quick was terrific in net, as he stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced, several from high-danger areas on the ice, as he was named the game’s first star on his birthday. All-in-all, a good win for the Kings, who finish their four-game homestand at 1-1-2, with four points.

Hear from Vilardi, Kopitar, Adrian Kempe and Todd McLellan below.

Gabriel Vilardi

Anze Kopitar
On his thoughts on the team’s response and coming back to win
It’s not the start that we wanted, obviously, getting scored on early in the game again, but it showed character. Going down two against a team like Colorado, it’s not the easiest ask to shut them down the rest of the game and score a few goals. I thought we showed quite a bit of character today. Obviously there’s still a few things we can improve on, but we’ll take the win and go from here on out.

On if the 5-on-3 power-play goal was the turning point tonight
Yeah, I think so. Having extended 5-on-3 time is big, and nowadays you have to score, otherwise you fall behind, especially being a 2-0 game. Making it 2-1 was big. After that, Gabe got a beautiful goal off the halfwall. The power play was huge today.

On the resolve the Kings showed in coming back tonight
Even though we got a couple points in the first couple games, blowing the 3-1 leads it felt like a [regulation] loss. We’ll take the points and to get the first W on the board was big. Now, we’ve got to build on that and keep on rolling.

Adrian Kempe

On the mental toughness shown by the Kings in tonight’s game
They came out with the same start as last game, they were flying, and [it felt like] we were waiting to see what was going to happen in the first period. Quick was on his head a couple of times and saved us there and I think we really bounced back in the second period. In the third, I think we were trying to manage the game well, get pucks deep and get in on the forecheck, and I think we did that well. We ended up with a goal, so that was a huge win for us, and for our confidence.

On his game-winning goal
I think we had a pretty good shift in the [offensive] zone, Kopi was flying on the outside and I tried to present myself in front of the net, waiting to see if the [defenseman] got it, but it ended up rolling away from the D and Kopi obviously made a hell of a play to me. It was nice, and it’s what I expect from him.

On Jonathan Quick’s performance tonight
He was awesome. Like I said, he was standing on his head a couple of times. He’s given us a chance to win every game, him and Cal, he was phenominal tonight. We’re looking forward to seeing that every night here.

Todd McLellan

On the feeling of the first win of the season
A little bit of everything. Wasn’t a Picasso, but we don’t need the perfection right now, we just needed a win. It was an interesting battle tonight, back and forth, being hemmed in our end, then we get an opportunity and score. It was a happy night in the end, but it was a stressful night throughout.

On if he was happier with the power play tonight
Well, the goals, definitely, and I think some of the things we put into play in practice yesterday showed up in the game today, so that’s a good sign. It means mentally, we’re trying to engage a little bit more and grab concepts and apply them. Yes, the power play was better tonight. It still has some work to do, as our whole game does, you’re probably going to hear that from me for the first half of this season, considering how short it is. It allowed us to crawl back into the game tonight and we’re happy for that.

On if he’d attribute suppressing Colorado in the second half more to the change in defensive pairings, or overall play
I think the change helped. We were getting caught on the ice for some fairly long shifts, whether it was them hemming us in or us trying to extend a shift, maybe looking for some offense that wasn’t there early in the game. Even late into the second, we were still doing that. I thought we managed shift length a little bit better, we played as a fresher team and that’s the only way you can play against that team with the pace and the skill they come at you with.

On cleaning up the penalties, and rolling lines a bit more
It was much better than it had been, in terms of the parade to the box, we cleaned some of that up. I don’t think we’re going to play a perfect, penalty free game, those are rare in the league, so by cutting it down, it helped. [Grundstrom] played five minutes the other night, today he had almost 11, and he had a chance to contribute to the team’s success. So did Amadio, so did Moore and the other three lines got to roll a little bit more. Let’s face it, we need 20 [players] a night to win. There’s some teams that can probably get by with 15 but we need 20 a night.

Notes –

– With two assists tonight, Anze Kopitar now has six on the season, tying him with Jack Eichel for the NHL lead. Kopitar now has multiple points in three of the four Kings games played this season.
– Gabriel Vilardi currently leads all NHL rookies with two goals this season and is the only rookie with multiple goals scored.
– Andreas Athanasiou collected his first assist as a member of the LA Kings, with a helper on Vilardi’s second-period goal. Athanasiou has tallied a point in each of his first four games with the Kings.
– Adrian Kempe scored his second goal in as many games, and the ninth game-winning goal of his NHL career.
– In his last four starts against Colorado, Jonathan Quick has stopped 107 of the 111 shots he faced, good for a .964 save percentage. Quick also improved to 5-3 on his birthday all-time.
– The Kings have earned at least a point in 10 of their last 13 games against Colorado, and 12 of their last 15 meetings between the two teams at STAPLES Center.
– The Kings have given up the first goal in all four games played so far this season and have conceded within the game’s first five minutes in each of the last three games.

The Kings are scheduled to skate tomorrow at Toyota Sports Performance Center at 10:30 AM, before departing for St. Louis.

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