FINAL – Kings 3, Stars 2 – Copley, Kempe, McLellan

The LA Kings got back to winning ways with a hard-fought, 3-2 victory over the Central Division leading Dallas Stars on Tuesday evening at Arena.

Forwards Rasmus Kupari, Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe scored for the Kings, while forward Kevin Fiala collected two primary assists in the victory. The Kings also got 28 saves from goaltender Pheonix Copley, who won for the ninth time from ten starts so far this season.

The Kings opened the scoring with the lone goal from the first period, as they took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Fiala created a pocket of space off the rush for Kupari, who took the puck in the right-hand circle and sniped a shot past Dallas netminder Jake Oettinger for his third goal of the season.

Dallas equalized just over six and a half minutes into the second period. Immediately after the Kings killed off the second Stars power play of the evening, the visitors won a faceoff to defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who sent a shot from the point through traffic and past Copley for the game-tying goal.

Each team scored a response goal, within three minutes of Heiskanen’s goal, to tie the game at two through 40 minutes.

First, Kopitar got on the board with his 11th goal of the season to put the hosts ahead. Defenseman Drew Doughty dragged the puck into the center of the ice, high in the slot, and his low shot was deflected by Kopitar just outside the goaltender for the go-ahead goal.

Less than a minute later, however, the Stars tied the game at two via their top offensive line. Off a cycle sequence down low, forward Joe Pavelski spun to his forehand and sent a pass through the crease to linemate Jason Robertson in point-blank range, where he slotted home for his 26th goal of the season, the fourth most in the NHL this season.

The third period saw the Kings take care of their own end and eventually capitalize on the man advantage to secure the two points. Off the rush, forward Gabe Vilardi fed Fiala in stride, with the Swiss winger going across the crease to Kempe for the goal at the back post, his 15th of the season. The goal gave Fiala a multi-point night, with the eight power-play goal for the Kings over their last nine games.

Hear from Copley, Kempe and Head Coach Todd McLellan following tonight’s game.

Pheonix Copley

Adrian Kempe
On the team’s play in the third period to secure the victory
Momentum is going to be a little bit back and forth, I think we answered really well after they scored and then went down to their zone again and scored [ourselves]. I think it was all four lines playing a really solid game for us tonight and that’s what we’ve got to keep building on, we’ve got to have that every game. Obviously, we’re not going to be perfect every game but we need to play the same way, play hard, everybody blocking shots. That’s what we need to make it further in the season.

On being on pace for 30 goals halfway through the season and if he concerns himself with totals
I mean, I worry about them when they don’t come as much, so I can see what I can do different to start scoring again. I think, all year, I’ve been creating a lot of chances and even when I didn’t score, I think I had a ton of chances. Tonight, I think I had good looks all game, came down to the power-play goal, lucky bounce and that’s the things that happen. I felt pretty good, I think our line played well, we got some confidence back in our line and the team won, that’s the most important thing.

On playing with Quinton Byfield and his game tonight
Yeah, he played great. Along the boards and everything, down low, he played really strong, strong plays and didn’t play with a lot of risk. I think we took care of our own zone and the forecheck was a lot better than last game. He was all over the place today and that’s great to see.

On his goal tonight and how he saw the play develop
I mean, we tried to keep as much speed as we could. He made a good read, crossing the neutral zone and gave it to Gabe. Gabe, obviously he has to read what kind of play he has, when we get over their line. [Fiala] got it back and we had kind of a 2-on-1, going to the net. He threw it there and I just tried to get a touch on it, that’s all I did.

Todd McLellan
On his takeaways from tonight’s victory
The game as a whole was very competitive. It was a hard, heavy, physical – not always big hits – but just the battles for loose pucks and for ice, it had a big forecheck component to it. That part of it and for us to play the way we did, a lot of things we had to fix from the last time we were in Dallas and I thought we accomplished some of that.

On the impact and importance of special teams tonight
Both special teams were obviously important, but the way our penalty kill has been going, and I said this the other night, I thought we’ve improved a fair amount in a lot of areas, but we’ve been getting scored on every night, which makes no sense. The comment makes no sense, but it’s actually happening that way. Penalty kill did a real good job tonight, didn’t like the fact that we had to kill the penalty late in the third period, but it did its job.

On Quinton Byfield’s game tonight
I thought he had a tremendous game tonight. He’s always been fast and quick, but he really used his body to his advantage. He stripped pucks, he created and loosened up pucks for his linemates, backchecking, he caught people from behind, he was responsible defensively and he set up a number of offensive plays. To me, tonight, that was as good a game as we’ve seen from Q all year and he had some good ones at the beginning. Real positive sign for him.

On if the Kings are beyond a surprise factor when it comes to solid play from Copley
Yeah, I think we’re beyond that. He’s come in, he’s settled everything down and he’s stabilized the group. I’ve said this all along, we’re fortunate now to have three NHL goaltenders in Cal, Quickie and Copley, and that’s nice depth to have. Right now, Pheonix has the hot hand. That doesn’t mean the other two can’t get hot and I’ve yet to see a goalie play 42 straight games, so everybody’s important. Right now, Pheonix is the guy that settled it down and given us some confidence.

On if he believes the Kings can be a 100-point team, their pace through 41 games
I think we can be, we’re working towards that, but our goal is to become a 52 point team. I know that’s not what you want hear, but the team coming in here on Thursday, what are they shooting for, their 70th point, that’s the type of challenge that we have. Then the next game after that, we’ve got to go into Las Vegas and play and then after that we have Edmonton coming in. So, this string of games right now, every night is a big battle and I think if we start thinking about big numbers and chunks, it’s not going to do us any good. One at a time.

Notes –
– Kevin Fiala (0-2-2) tallied a pair of assists for his 11th multi-point effort of the season, extending his assist and point streaks to three games. Fiala’s two-point night also increased his point streak against Dallas to nine games (6-8-14), the NHL’s second longest active streak.
– Rasmus Kupari scored the game’s first goal for his third goal of the season and his 20th career point.
– Anze Koptiar tallied a goal for his 38th home point against the Dallas Stars, the most by any active player. Kopitar (199-399-598) now sits two points shy of 600 career points at home, third most in Kings history.
– Adrian Kempe (1-0-1) scored a power-play goal for the second consecutive game, his fifteenth goal of the campaign.
– Drew Doughty (0-1-1) assisted on Kopitar’s second period goal to eclipse the 20-assist plateau for the 14th time in his career and the 10th consecutive season. Doughty ties Dallas’ Ryan Suter for the most 20+ assist seasons among active defensemen.
– Quinton Byfield and Gabriel Villardi each earned assists. Vilardi has collected five points (3-2-5) over his last six games, while Byfield’s point was his first since he was recalled from AHL-Ontario on December 27.
– Pheonix Copley stopped 28-of-30 shots for his seventh consecutive victory, establishing a new career high and improving his record to 9-1-0 this season.

The Kings will return to the ice for practice tomorrow at 11 AM at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo.

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