FINAL – Kings 2, Flames 4 – Kempe, Kopitar, Hiller

The LA Kings dropped to 1-2-0 on their current Canadian roadtrip, following a 4-2 defeat against the Calgary Flames on Saturday evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Early in the first period, the teams traded power-play goals just 57 seconds apart, with both goals coming exactly eight seconds into the respective man advantage, to open the scoring with a goal apiece.

First, Calgary forward Nazem Kadri got the hosts on the board from the low slot. Off a faceoff win in the offensive zone, Calgary moved the puck quickly on the left side, from Yegor Sharangovich up high to Andrei Kuzmenko down low to Kadri in the slot, with the veteran center finishing from close range for the game’s first goal.

The Kings answered less than a minute later, however, with a power-play goal of their own to knot the score at one. After forward Anze Kopitar won the offensive-zone faceoff, forward Kevin Fiala and defenseman Drew Doughty exchanged passes, before Doughty fed forward Adrian Kempe for a one-timer from the right-hand circle, which he buried past Calgary netminder Jacob Markstrom for his 23rd goal of the season and a tie game.

The Flames took a 2-1 lead into the intermission as Kuzmenko was once again the facilitator. Off a Kings turnover deep in their defensive zone, Calgary kept the play alive, with Kuzmenko eventually driving towards the net, dragging the puck onto his forehand and feeding forward Martin Pospital through the crease for a backdoor tap-in and a one-goal advantage.

Another power-play goal gave Calgary its first multi-goal lead of the game late in the second period. On their fourth power play in total on the evening, defenseman Rasmus Andersson walked the puck through the high slot and got a shot on net, which was kicked out by Kings netminder David Rittich, but forward Blake Coleman crashed the crease from the left side and buried the rebound, his 29th goal of the season, for a 3-1 advantage.

Inside two minutes to play in the second, the Kings scored their second power-play goal of the night to pull back within 3-2. A tic-tac-toe passing play, originated by Kempe and Fiala, found Kopitar at the back post, where he whipped it past Markstrom and in for his 25th goal of the season. Fiala and Kempe each tallied their second point of the evening, making it a multi-point game for both forwards.

The hosts buried their third power-play goal of the evening midway through the third period to restore their two-goal advantage. This time, Calgary worked low-to-high, with the puck finding defenseman Mackenzie Weegar in the right-hand circle. The Flames’ blueliner worked towards the middle and fired back across the grain and in for his 18th goal of the season and a 4-2 lead.

Hear from Kempe, Kopitar and Head Coach Jim Hiller following tonight’s game.

Adrian Kempe

Anze Kopitar
On what was missing from a connectivity standpoint throughout the night
Yeah, we just weren’t connected as a unit on the ice really. I don’t think our passing was sharp today and throughout the two periods, we had 10 shots on net, which is a result of not passing the puck crisp and getting entries and getting pucks on the net.

On a concerning number of penalties taken, resulting in three PPG against
It’s definitely too many penalties. We’d like to keep it at three and below, so that’s just too much. I don’t think we have to hit the panic button for our penalty kill, it’s been solid all year, so we’ll get back to looking at the video for a bit and correct our mistakes.

On what he felt from the team’s energy levels throughout the game
No, I mean, the energy was there, we didn’t have the start that we wanted, obviously. I think the response was good to giving up the early goal, getting one back right away, so that was good. The game wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be.

On the importance of limiting the highs and low at this stage in the season
That’s the story of an 82-game season, really. You can’t get too high, can’t get too low, so now we’ve got nine left and we’ve obviously got to bring it and make sure that we get into the playoffs and then we’ll go from there.

Jim Hiller
On the areas he felt the team was disconnected in tonight
They were quicker, faster, stronger and when you’re stuck behind like we were, the question for me is why were we a step behind? Then, you’re going to look like like it did, the first period, they had probably seven, eight Grade-A chances, we had one, it was on the power play. So yeah, just not good enough, not good enough and then you try to scramble, bouncing pucks and missing the net, not good enough.

On if he felt there was a letdown after games against Vancouver and Edmonton
I mean, we were stuck behind, so why were, that could be part of it, for sure. We’ve got to get to the bottom it, because this time of year, we’ve talked about it, we’ve had a pretty good month, we’ve played hard night after night, why weren’t we ready to play hard tonight? That’s the question that we got to find an answer to.

On if he felt the six minor penalties tonight came as a result of being a step behind
What happens when you’re a step behind and it happened all over the ice, is you get frustrated. You get frustrated at yourself, you get frustrated at your teammates, you can’t make a pass, you want to shoot, you’re chasing them. When you chase them, you hook and you hold and that’s what we did. So, it all comes down to not being ready, not moving your feet and then you get frustrated. Often times, you take penalties just because you’re frustrated.

On his assessment of the special teams in tonight’s game
Our penalty kill has been outstanding this year, that’s won us games over and over again this year, so we’re not going to lay this one on the penalty kill. I’m more concerned with the penalties. We took two slashing penalties in Edmonton, one of them led to a goal and then the penalties tonight, you don’t give yourself a chance, especially when you’re trying to get your legs under you when you’re not playing well. Not good enough.

On how much he felt the team missed a player like Phillip Danault in tonight’s game
Well, for sure we missed him all over the ice. He’s one of those guys that pretty consistently shows up to play hard and we didn’t have enough guys to do that, Phil would have been one, there’s no question. It’s the penalty kill, it’s the faceoffs, it’s the checking. We just didn’t have our checking legs or our checking mindset.

Danault missed tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. He’s considered day-to-day at this time and Hiller did not have any additional updates regarding his potential status for Monday’s game in Winnipeg.

Notes –
– Adrian Kempe (1-1=2) scored his 23rd goal of the campaign and picked up his team-leading 42nd assist and his eleventh point (7-4=11) over his last eight games against the Flames, dating back to March 31, 2022. Kempe now has points in back-to-back games against Calgary this season (0-1=1, Dec. 23, 2023).
Kempe’s pair of points marked his 19th multi-point effort of the campaign, the most on the team this season. He is also one multi-point effort shy of becoming the first Swedish-born Kings skater to record 20 multi-point games in a season since Tomas Sandstrom (28) in 1990-91.
– Anze Kopitar (1-0=1) scored his 25th goal for his 65th point of the campaign. With the goal, Kopitar has reached the 25-goal mark for the 10th time in his career, joining Marcel Dionne (11x) and Luc Robitaille (11x) as the only skaters in franchise history to record 10 such seasons. With his 65 points (25-40=65) on the season, Kopitar registered his 11th career 65-point season, tying Robitaille for the second-most such seasons in team history behind only Marcel Dionne (12x). The goal was the 21st of Kopitar’s career against Calgary, tying Wayne Gretzky for the fourth-most goals against the Flames in Kings history.
– His seventh tally in his last eight games, the goal marked the 1,206th point of Kopitar’s career (418-788=1,206), breaking a tie with Vincent Damphousse (432-773=1,205) for sole possession of the 50th-most points in league history. Kopitar also skated in his 1,365th game tonight, tying Eric Staal for the 52nd-most games in league history.
– Kevin Fiala (0-2=2) picked up his 40th and 41st assists of the season for his 18th multi-point effort of the season. Fiala becomes the third Kings skater this season to hit the 40-assist mark, a threshold he has now reached three times in his career. Fiala joins Mark Streit (4x) and Roman Josi (7x) as the only Swiss-born skaters in NHL history to record three 40-assist seasons and joins Josi (2021-22 – 2023-24) as the only Swiss-born skaters to do so in three consecutive campaigns.
– Drew Doughty (0-1=1) picked up his 31st assist of the season for his 45th point of the campaign. With the helper, Doughty reaches the 45-point mark for the seventh time in his career, breaking a tie with Rob Blake (6x) for sole possession of the most such seasons by a defenseman in franchise history. Doughty’s assist marked the 26th of his career against the Flames, breaking a tie with Dustin Brown (25) for sole possession of the ninth-most assists against the Flames among Kings skaters all-time.

The Kings will travel to Winnipeg tomorrow and are not scheduled to hold a practice. The team will return to the ice on Monday in Manitoba for a morning skate in advance of that evening’s game against the Jets.

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