The LA Kings left it until late, but scored two goals in the final stages of the third period to collect a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday evening.
Anaheim scored the only goal of the first period, with defenseman Haydn Fleury opening the scoring 5:37 into the game. After a won faceoff in the offensive zone, Fleury sent a shot through traffic and bodies in front that went cleanly past Jonathan Quick on the glove side for his second goal of the season.
The second period was controlled by Anaheim, but Quick’s play kept it a 1-0 game through 40 minutes. Quick stopped all 19 shots that came his way in the middle stanza, including several saves from point-blank range, including second chances, to keep it a one-goal game heading into the second intermission. Anaheim had 79 percent of the shot attempts in the second and all nine of the high-danger chances for.
The Kings stayed in the game as a result of their goaltender’s play throughout the evening and finally broke through with a pair of goals down the stretch, to earn the 2-1 victory. Forward Lias Andersson buried a highlight-reel feed from forward Gabriel Vilardi to get the visitors on the board and tie the game with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
With the score deadlocked at one, heading into the game’s final minute, forward Dustin Brown hit Anze Kopitar driving down the left wing in the offensive zone. Kopitar, in alone on John Gibson, deked to the backhand and slotted home the game-winning goal for point number 997 of his NHL career, and the deciding tally tonight.
Quick finished with 33 saves, as he carried the team for much of the evening, putting them in the position to tie and then win the game late.
Hear from Kopitar, Andersson and Head Coach Todd McLellan from after tonight’s game.
On his goal tonight, and the quality of the assist from Gabriel Vilardi
Two great plays by Gabe. On the rush, he made a nice drop pass to me, I tried to pick a corner there, missed and Gabe almost banked it in off the rebound. We get a little cycle going and Gabe made a terrific play to me. I was trying to stay off the far side a little bit and hopefully the defenseman lost me and it worked. Good play by Gabe and all the other guys on the ice.
On the personal meaning of getting that goal tonight
Yeah, it means a lot. We didn’t play our best today, and I wanted to get us on the board so badly. I was just happy after the goal and it feels better to score when the team hasn’t played very well and you can tie it up in the end. Huge goal for the team and I’m very happy and excited for that.
On his work put in to get back to this point, and the play of his line tonight
Yeah, I felt like we had good chemistry, especially in our first period, we had a lot of shifts going down in their end. Just working hard, trying to keep my pace up and my conditioning, so I’m ready when I get the chance here, just try to stay sharp every day and be prepared for anything. If that’s to play ten minutes up here, if it’s to play 20, I’m trying to stay prepared for anything. I’m happy to be here and here is where I want to be, so I’m just going to work even harder.
On Jonathan Quick’s play tonight, in keeping the team in the game until the comeback
I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to see that he was the reason we were still in the game, he was outstanding. Some of the saves he made, and the secondary chances that he somehow got a pad on, or a blocker, he was our savior for two periods and I think he was the motivator in the third. Really disappointed in a lot of players up until the third and we certainly had a little chat about it. I think we adjusted our play somewhat, still not to the level we need to be at. We were much better in the third than we were in the first two periods, and I think Quickie kept us in it and he motivated us in the third.
On Lias Andersson scoring, and taking advantage of his opportunity
He’s getting his chance to play right now, he was very patient all year. He’s getting his chance to play and as I told the players in between the second and third, we have a management team, a coaching staff and even players are evaluating each other right now. It does matter at this time of the year, because decisions will be made based on the season as a whole, but also what you do in these moments. Some are pushing for more and others are giving it away and Lias right now, he’s produced for two games, he’s played two really good games, so he’s trying to show us that he belongs here, so good for him.
On what he looks for from younger players as he evaluates in games like tonight
It’s young and old, age doesn’t matter. If you’re in the NHL right now, maybe a Quinton Byfield is just cutting his teeth a little bit, but everybody else has played long enough to understand what we’re doing and how we’re supposed to do it. If you still don’t know where to go at a certain time, or have a certain coverage down pat by now, shame on you, you probably don’t belong in the league. If you make a mistake or an effort error while you’re doing those things, we understand that, it happens to every team, every player in the league. Right now, at this time of the season, it’s a lot about structure and do you understand how we want to play, but the intangibles come into play right now. Are you willing to get into a lane and block a shot now, are you willing to take a hit to get the puck out, can you shorten your shift up so your teammates have a better chance at success, are you willing to come back as hard as you go in…I could go on and on and on. A lot of it is the intangibles, the character stuff that we’re looking at. If you lack it, or you give it back, it’s going to show up quickly.
On Gabriel Vilardi’s assist and his impressions on the skill, or what it does for his confidence
I think the latter is probably even more important than the beginning. He’s got to feel good about his game tonight, he’s got to feel pretty good about making that play. I believe he can make that on a regular basis, tight areas, where he uses his vision and creates like that. Part of the game he needs to improve on is the long game, the open game, and that will come. There’s been a lot of pressure on him, we’ve talked ad nauseam about him, over and over again, about being patient and he’s going to, when you pro-rate it to 82 games, wind up with a pretty good season. Perhaps we expect so much from him – us, you, the Kings world, it’s a tough position for him to be in and he just needs a little evolution to it.
– Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 33 saves on 34 shots tonight, his second-highest save total of the season, as he won for the fourth time in his last five starts
– Forward Anze Kopitar collected the 997th point of his NHL career with tonight’s game-winning goal.
– With an assist on Kopitar’s goal, defenseman Mikey Anderson now has a point in three straight games.
– Forward Gabriel Vilardi collected a point for the second consecutive game with an assist tonight.
– With an assist tonight, forward Trevor Moore has points in four of his last five games, and six points (4-2-6) over his last seven games played.
– The Kings won for just the second time this season when trailing after two periods, from 22 games in that situation.
The Kings are not scheduled to hold a morning skate in advance of tomorrow evening’s rematch in Anaheim, with puck drop scheduled for 7 PM from Honda Center.