FINAL – Kings 3, Coyotes 2 (SO) – Vilardi, McLellan

Outside of a about a six-minute stretch to begin the second period, the LA Kings put together a strong start to their road trip, ultimately coming away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes. With the victory, the Kings have now won three consecutive games, with points from four straight, as they’ve moved back to the .500 mark, at 6-6-3 on the season.

The Kings started off strong, with first-period goals from Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter, but conceded twice in a span of 4:51 in the second period, which undid the work from the first period. While that span of play was controlled by Arizona, the Kings were able to right the ship throughout the second, and were the better team in the third period, though they were unable to break the deadlock in regulation.

After what turned out to be a fairly uneventful 3-on-3 overtime period, Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe and Gabriel Vilardi all scored in the shootout, while Jonathan Quick made two saves, as the Kings earned the bonus point and started off their six-game roadtrip on a high note.

As a result, the Kings moved into fifth place in the West Division with the victory, pushing one point closer to fourth-placed Arizona. A good win against the team they are chasing, in the first of eight meetings this season.

Hear from shootout hero Gabriel Vilardi, and Todd McLellan, from after tonight’s game.

Gabriel Vilardi

Todd McLellan

On common threads between the three games the Kings have won in a row
Some consistency with lines, I think getting some established defensemen back, Matt Roy just makes a huge difference back there. Not that the group that we had in, throughout the injuries weren’t capable, but he just stabilizes things so much back there, makes us a little bit deeper.

On if, outside of that stretch, that’s the kind of hockey he wants the team to play
I thought we did a good job against a team that, in my opinion, is one of the most tenacious when it comes to the forecheck and their ability to sustain offensive-zone time. We did a pretty good job for most of the game, we got sloppy for a six, seven-minute span, you’re never going to be perfect, they’re going to play in your end at some point. We’re going to have breakdowns, that’s what we have goaltenders for, and Quickie made some real good saves when we needed them. For the most part, I thought it was the type of game our team needs to play to win, and that’s a good sign that we understand that.

On where Gabriel Vilardi’s game is at
His offense will come, I’m not worried about that one bit. He makes a lot of smart plays, he’s got a lot of deception in his game, he sets people up. We’ve got to let this guy breathe a little bit offensively. Even I looked at his ten-game stint at the end of last year, he’s almost a point-per-game guy, that’s great, he’s going to get 60 points, 20 goals for us, it’s a hard, hard league offensively. We’re trying to establish a complete game with him, faceoffs, defensive responsibilities, the ability to check the other team’s top players. He’s taking all of that in and working really hard at that part of his game. I don’t think the offense is ever going to be diminished because of those things, I think it’s going to open up as time goes on. He’s doing the same things he did last year, when he put points up all the time, in fact, I think he’s doing them better right now, it’s just not going in quite as much and that’s fine. We’re okay without it right now, just keep working on your game and become an overall better player.

On his selection of shooters in tonight’s shootout
We had that four-day span, and we had a few shootout practices. [Grundstrom] for example, I think everyone was holding their breath because some of the stuff that he does in practice to score goals, it’s pretty impressive. When he went down, he saw something he tried to take advantage of it, that’s fine, but I think everyone else was expecting something different. We went with his practice habits and his ability to score there. Obviously, Kopi [is] a reliable guy, and Kempe, we didn’t go to him the other day, he’s been a pretty reliable guy. Gabe, in my mind, beat the last goaltender he faced, he just couldn’t finish it. It was good to see him go in and score.

Notes –

– The Kings now have three straight wins, and points in four consecutive games (3-0-1).
– The Kings won for the first time in games that extend past 60 minutes. The Kings entered tonight 0-3 in those situations, and improved to 1-1 in shootout contests.
– Gabriel Vilardi scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, his first career NHL shootout goal.
– Dustin Brown scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the first period. Brown is tied for the lead amongst all players in the West Division this season in goals and moved into the Top-200 all-time (T-199) with his 307th career NHL goal.
– Anze Kopitar collected the primary assist on Brown’s goal and extended his scoring streak to six games in the process. With 19 points on the season, Kopitar leads all players in the West Division in total scoring.
– With an assist in the first period, defenseman Drew Doughty tallied his 13th point of the season, moving him into a tie for sixth in the NHL in points this season amongst defensemen.
– With a goal tonight, Jeff Carter picked up a point for the third consecutive game, while Vilardi now has points in back-to-back games with an assist on the play.

The Kings are scheduled for a 1 PM (Pacific) practice tomorrow at Gila River Arena.

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