FINAL – Kings 5, Avalanche 2 – Kopitar, Kempe, McLellan

The LA Kings skated to their fifth consecutive victory, courtesy of a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday evening at Ball Arena.

The Kings got three points from Anze Kopitar (0-3-3) and two goals apiece from Phillip Danault and Adrian Kempe in the win. Forward Gabriel Vilardi also scored, while forward Quinton Byfield extended his assist streak to five games.

The Kings jumped out to an early lead through Kempe, who buried his 31st goal of the season midway through the first period. Kopitar led a 2-on-1 rush through the neutral zone, drew the defenseman towards him and fed Kempe in the wheelhouse for the one-timer at the back post and the game’s first goal.

The visitors doubled their advantage in the final three minutes of the opening period, taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Kopitar was once again the facilitator, as he fed Vilardi just outside the crease. Vilardi picked his spot high on the blocker side and buried his 21st goal of the season for the two-goal lead.

Colorado got on the board with just over five minutes to play in the second period, through forward Evan Rodrigues. A shot from the point by defenseman Samuel Girard was directed by the stick of Rodrigues, just below the crossbar and in, for his 13th goal of the season and a 2-1 scoreline.

LA regained its two-goal advantage less than 30 seconds into the third period, as Kempe buried his second goal of the evening. Stationed in the low slot, Kempe took a deflected pass from defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov in a dangerous area, spun onto his backhand and beat Colorado netminder Alexander Georgiev from close range for his 32nd goal of the season.

The Avalanche once again cut the deficit back down to one, however, as they scored the game’s first goal on special teams. On the man advantage early in the third period, MacKinnon walked into the right-hand circle and fired through traffic and in for his 27th goal of the season, pulling the hosts to within 3-2.

Danault pushed right back with a goal of his own shortly after to put the Kings back ahead by two goals. On the bump-up shift following the Colorado power-play goal, Danault got a stick on a point shot from defenseman Jordan Spence, redirecting the puck past Georgiev and in. Spence’s assist was his first of the season with the Kings. Danault iced the game inside three minutes to play with the empty-net goal, giving him a multi-goal night.

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

Anze Kopitar

Adrian Kempe
On tonight’s win over Colorado
It was a good win, I thought it was a character win. We played a solid 60 minutes, a few too many minutes in the penalty box, but I think we were the better team.

On how well Anze Kopitar is playing right now
He’s been playing at that same level for 17 years. The puck is going in a little bit more for us right now and maybe that’s the thing that shows up a little bit more, but he shows up every day and does the same things. The puck is going in a little bit more right now for myself and the line as well, so that’s a good confidence booster and something we’d like to keep going.

On the momentum swing a goal early in a period, or right after conceding, can bring
It’s huge. When the other team scores, it’s a big momentum change when we can get a goal back right away. It was huge, Phil got a big one there for the team, we were all pumped up on the bench, so that was those huge. It shows that all four lines can play against anyone.

On the confidence level of the group right now, winners of five straight
It’s up there for sure. I think we definitely feel like we can play with the best teams and I think we showed up and really showed that we can play with these teams that have made it far in the playoffs. The character was really good, even though maybe power play and PK wasn’t really there, I felt like our 5-on-5 game has been really good lately, it’s been winning us games. If we can get all of the puzzle pieces together here, we’re going to have a good stretch.

Todd McLellan
On what he liked most from the group about tonight’s win
I thought we were resilient. Everybody found a way to contribute, we played with a high level of pace, which you have to against this team and got outstanding goaltending when we needed it. We had some timely scoring and as we leave here, we’re happy with the group as a whole, not just two or three players, but the whole group.

On scoring right after conceding and scoring so quickly to start the third period
Yeah, that’s huge, because you’re back on your heels a little bit, they’ve got some energy, we’re in their building and the fans are behind them. To quiet things down a little bit was a benefit to us quickly in that third period.

On Anze Kopitar’s high level of play right now and if his consistency almost takes him for granted
That’s probably fair to say, we probably take him for granted, we just keep calling his name and he goes out and does it. I know there’s a lot of talk about the goals he’s scoring and the offense that he’s putting up, but it has never come at the cost of what he really does well. He takes care of the group, the team, he does things right all the time.

On getting immediate contributions from Gavrikov, Korpisalo and MacEwen
It doesn’t surprise us, they’re very good hockey players. They pick things up quickly in practice, it’s probably the area that I’ve noticed it the most. Believe it or not, this might sound strange, but you don’t have to go to the board to explain drills, they watch it once and they’ve got it. That gives us a pretty good sense of their ability to read and react to things around them.

Additionally, McLellan said on Kevin Fiala that “he tried coming back, a little bit sore, so we’ll see.”

Notes –
– The Kings extended their winning streak to a season-high five games.
– Adrian Kempe (2-0-2) scored his 31st and 32nd goals of the season, reaching the 50-point plateau (32-19-51) for the second time in his career (35-19-54 in 2021-22). Kempe now has five points in his last three games (4-1-5).
– Kempe’s two-goal outing marked his 18th career multi-goal game. No Kings skater has more multi-goal performances (18) than Kempe since his debut NHL season (2016-17).
– Phillip Danault (2-0-2) scored his 99th and 100th career NHL goals, becoming the 22nd different skater from the 2011 NHL Draft class to reach 100 career NHL goals.
– Anze Kopitar (0-3-3) recorded his 279th career multi-point game, moving him two multi-point outings shy of tying Dave Taylor (281) for fourth-most in Kings history. It also marked his 26th career three-assist outing. Only Wayne Gretzky (67), Marcel Dionne (43) and Dave Taylor (28) have more three-plus assist games in franchise history.
– Quinton Byfield extended his point and assist streaks into a fifth game (0-5-5). Byfield became the first Kings skater 20 years of age or younger to establish an assist streak of at least five games since Darryl Sydor (20 y/o, 0-5-5, Feb. 27 to March 9, 1993). The last Kings skater 20 years of age or younger to establish a five-game point streak was Drew Doughty from Feb. 8 to March 4, 2010 (20 y/o, 1-6-7).
– Jordan Spence, Matt Roy, Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Gavrikov and Trevor Moore all collected helpers in the win. With his assist, Roy extended his point and assist streaks into a career-long fourth game (0-4-4), while Spence’s point was his first of the season.
– Joonas Korpisalo stopped 28-of-30 shots for his second win in his second start for the LA Kings. He is the 12th different goaltender in franchise history to earn wins in each of his first two appearances with the Kings.

The Kings are scheduled to hold a practice tomorrow at 11 AM at Toyota Sports Performance Center.

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