The LA Kings concluded their preseason slate at 6-2-1, following a 7-4 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
Less than two minutes into the game, the Kings opened the scoring through forward Anze Kopitar. Kopitar and forward Quinton Byfield executed a give-and-go through the neutral zone, with Byfield eventually gaining the slot with authority and hitting the captain for a tap-in goal at the back post, Kopitar’s second tally in as many exhibition contests.
The Kings made it 2-0 through defenseman Matt Roy, who buried his first goal of the preseason from the right wing. Forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kevin Fiala combined for a first-period goal for the third straight game this week, which set up Roy to fire through the five hole from the right side, as the hosts doubled their advantage.
Vegas got on the board just over a minute after Roy’s goal, as forward Ivan Barbashev got the visitors on the board. Forward Jonathan Marchessault sent a shot towards the slot, where Barbashev got a high deflection on the puck to re-direct it past Kings netminder Cam Talbot, bringing the Golden Knights to within 2-1.
With the Kings on the man advantage, they restored the two-goal lead in short order, still less than 10 minutes into the game. The top power-play unit snapped the puck around the zone, with Adrian Kempe eventually generating a rebound off a one-timer attempt, which forward Viktor Arvidsson finished from the top of the crease for his second goal of the preseason and a 3-1 lead.
Closing out the scoring in the opening period was Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson, who found the back of the net with 52 seconds on the clock, bringing the score to 3-2 at the first intermission. With the Golden Knights on the power play, Stephenson got to the front of the net and got on the end of a Jack Eichel rebound, slotting home for the goal.
The visitors equalized just under seven minutes into the second period through defenseman Shea Theodore. Skating through the right-hand circle, Theodore pulled the puck onto his backhand and shot underneath the crossbar, off the back bar and in, tying the game at three in the process.
With the teams skating at 4-on-4, the Kings pulled back ahead through forward Kevin Fiala, who extended his point streak to three with his second goal in as many games this preseason at Crypto.com Arena. All four skaters on the ice moved well around the offensive zone, with Dubois eventually holding off his defenseman to find Fiala in the slot, where he fired past Vegas netminder Adin Hill for the go-ahead goal.
Early in the third period, the Golden Knights scored to knot the game at four. Forward William Carrier gained the offensive zone with speed down the right wing and fired on net, which Talbot kicked out with the right pad, but the rebound fell to forward Nicolas Roy in the low slot and he buried it for a 4-4 scoreline.
In a span of just 37 seconds, Vegas opened up a two-goal advantage, their first lead of the night. First, Eichel picked up his first of the day with an individual effort down the left wing, as he controlled the puck down the flank, cut towards the top of the crease and scored through the five hole. After the Kings took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the goal, Vegas converted on the ensuing power play, with Marchessault collecting his fourth point of the afternoon with a one-timer from the left circle off a won faceoff.
Eichel capped off a four-goal third period for the Golden Knights with an empty-net goal, his second tally of the game.
Hear from Roy, forward Viktor Arvidsson and Head Coach Todd McLellan following today’s game.
— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) October 7, 2023
On where he feels the team is at coming out of preseason, heading into game one
I think we’ve started the games good and then we kind of wear off. I think we need to stay aggressive and play a full 60 minutes. I think we haven’t done that, yet, so I think we’ve got to do that on Wednesday.
On why he feels the drop off has happened after strong starts
Penalties. We take way too many penalties, it was like eight minutes straight in the third period. You lose guys on the bench, you over-use guys and they get tired and we’ve got to stay out of the box.
On getting a feel for an 11F / 7D look heading into Wednesday’s game
Yeah, but as I said, if we’re at 11 forwards, we can’t take that many penalties. It’s going to wear on our team and on our forward group especially.
On if he sees common threads between the Kings not playing a full 60 at the start of last year
I don’t know yet, I just think it’s commitment, it’s just consistency. I think you’ve got to play the same way [for the entire 60 minutes].
On what he believes the Kings need to clean up defensively heading into the regular season
There’s some things that we have to clean up. I’m not quite sure how much there is, but just use this game to evaluate, we weren’t good on any type of sort outs coming into our end, as far as backcheck goes, and then our net play wasn’t real good. Lots of loose stuff laying around there that they got second opportunities on, so we have some direction for practice this week, we know what have to work on. Normally we’re not too bad in that area but we were tonight.
On the decision to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen tonight
First time that we’ve tried 11 and seven in a long, long time. Based on some of the circumstances that we’ll face throughout the year, we may have to do it, so it’s good for the players to experience it. I would prefer not to do it, but we might be forced to do it sometimes, so if you’re frustrated, tough luck, figure out how we’re going to get through.
On if he believes the Kings will play 11/7 on opening night on Wednesday
I don’t know what we’ll go with yet, but we wanted to try 11 and seven tonight just to get a feel for it. We’re going to be 12 and six or 11 and seven, that’s all we have, and we’ve got to figure that part out over the next few days. Again, that’s why we purposely chose to go 11 and seven today, to expose the players, and us as coaches, to how it would feel and how the rotation would affect individuals, how they would react. I think rhythm is really important in a game and in a team and it didn’t feel like we had a lot of rhythm, but we’ll learn.
On a combination of relief being done with preseason and disappointment at how it ended
There is that, in the immediate right now, there’s a little bit of disappointment because we started the night well, we got sloppy, we took some unwarranted penalties, we just didn’t get it done tonight. We know what’s ahead of us and that’s exciting, but this training camp has certainly been odd. As we mentioned between the second and third, are you ready and are we ready? The answer, I believe, is yes but we’ve still got a little work to do. The camp has been odd, there’s no doubt about it. The relief is that, knock on wood, we came out of this healthy. I know talking to some of the other coaches around the league, everybody’s looking forward to Monday morning and then from there on it’s game on.
On how easily cleaned up the penalties from tonight’s game are, in his opinion
Well, they’re not easily cleaned up because, in some cases, we’ve tried to do it for a year and a half, so obviously it’s not easy. I think there is an opportunity to correct some things but at the end of the day, there’s probably really one way that we can correct it and that’s welding somebody to the bench and we may get to that eventually.
The Kings have a scheduled team off day tomorrow and will return to the ice for practice on Monday at 11 AM.