The LA Kings opened their 2021 preseason slate with a 2-1 defeat against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday evening at Gila River Arena.
The Kings brought a partial NHL lineup tonight, with regulars such as Adrian Kempe, Trevor Moore and Sean Walker skating alongside rookies such as Alex Turcotte, Martin Chromiak and Helge Grans. Todd McLellan spoke yesterday about giving young players an opportunity to show their stuff over the exhibition games tonight and tomorrow, mixing in “younger veterans” as well. The aforementioned trio of Kempe, Moore and Walker wore an “A” tonight, with some of the younger players making an impact in their first opportunity at the NHL level.
Recapping the game, Walker scored the only Kings goal, with forward Arthur Kaliyev and defenseman Cade McNelly collecting the assists on the play. McNelly also had a fight in the preseason tilt, squaring off against veteran winger Andrew Ladd. Walker led all Kings in ice-time with 26:16, while forward Martin Frk led all skaters on either side with five shots on goal. Goaltenders Cal Petersen (14/15) and Matthew Villalta (8/9) split the action, with Petersen logging the first 34:40 and Villalta taking it the rest of the way home.
The hallmark of tonight’s first period was penalties on each side, with both teams taking three minor infractions in total. Neither team, however, was able to convert, with the best chance of the opening 20 minutes falling to Chromiak. The Kings outshot the Coyotes by a 10-7 margin in the first period.
The second period saw both teams get on the scoreboard, with Sean Walker opening the scoring this preseason for the Kings. Defenseman Cade McNelly’s shot from the point was re-directed by Arthur Kaliyev, and Walker eventually cashed in the rebound for the game’s first goal. Arizona forward Loui Eriksson went on to even the score at one, with a quick wrist shot from the left-hand circle that beat a screened Cal Petersen.
The Kings surged out in the third period, as they tallied the first seven shots of the final frame of regulation, but it was Arizona that struck first, on the rebound of their first shot on goal of the third period. After Matthew Villalta made the initial save, forward Dylan Guenther buried the rebound in front, just shy of the halfway point, to make it a 2-1 game.
The Kings got a strong third period from the line of Brendan Lemieux – TJ Tynan – Martin Chromiak, with the trio taking several shifts in the offensive zone, but they were ultimately unable to find the tying goal. Arizona held on for the 2-1 victory, to open the preseason.
Following the game, the teams participated in a practice shootout, to give players repetitions during the preseason. Matthew Villalta stopped all three shots he saw, while Kings forward Alex Turcotte scored the lone goal at the other end of the ice, as he deked from backhand to forehand, putting the puck past Arizona netminder Anson Thornton.
“I thought, from a perspective, we competed, played hard,” Todd McLellan said after the game. “It was a great experience for some very young players to get their feet wet and I thought the goaltenders played well. Other than the result, there’s not a lot to complain about.”
– Forwards Adrian Kempe, Arthur Kaliyev and Rasmus Kupari, along with defensemen Sean Walker and Cade McNelly all finished the evening with a +1 rating.
– As noted above, Walker led all Kings skaters in time on ice with 26:16. Sean Durzi (21:25) and Mikey Anderson (21:01) also cracked the 20-minute mark, while Trevor Moore (17:41) led all forwards.
– Also as noted above, Frk led all skaters with five shots on goal and nine shot attempts. Forward Brendan Lemieux had eight shot attempts, while Walker and Kaliyev each had four shots on goal. 12 Kings players recorded multiple shots on goal in tonight’s defeat.
– Kupari was the most active Kings player in the faceoff circle, as he led the team in both faceoff wins (11) and faceoffs taken (19), good for 58%.
– Lemieux, Chromiak and Tynan each controlled more than 75% of shot attempts tonight and at least 83% of the scoring chances.
The Kings are scheduled to square off against the San Jose Sharks tomorrow evening at 7 PM at SAP Center, the second of seven games the team will play this preseason.