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

The LA Kings skated to their fifth straight win thanks to a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at Ball Arena.

The Kings got three points from Anze Kopitar (0-3-3) and two goals each 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 defender toward him and fed Kempe in the wheelhouse for the one-timer at the back post and the first goal of the game.

The visitors doubled their advantage in the final three minutes of the opening period and led 2-0 at the first break. Kopitar was again the facilitator as he fed Vilardi just outside the crease. Vilardi picked his spot high on the blocking 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 tip of defender Samuel Girard was deflected off Rodrigues’ stick, just under the crossbar and in, for his 13th goal of the season and a 2–1 score.

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

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

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

Hear from Kopitar, Kempe and head coach Todd McLellan after 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 box, but I think we were the better team.

About how well Anze Kopitar is playing right now
He has been playing at the same level for 17 years. The puck is going a little bit more for us right now and maybe that’s what’s showing up a little bit more, but he’s showing up every day and doing the same things. The puck is going in a little bit more right now for myself and the line as well, so it’s a good confidence booster and something we want to keep doing.

On the momentum swing a goal early in a period, or just after cashing in, 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 the big ones. 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 definitely up there. 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 this far in the playoffs. The character was really good, even though the powerplay maybe and the PK wasn’t really there, I felt like our 5v5 game has been really good lately, it’s won us games. If we can put all the puzzle pieces together here, we have a good stretch.

Todd McLellan
On what he liked most from the group at tonight’s win
I thought we were robust. Everyone found a way to contribute, we played at a high tempo as you have to against this team and got excellent goalkeeping when we needed it. We had some timely scores and as we go from here we are 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, it’s big because you’re kind of back on your heels, they’ve got some energy, we’re in their building and the fans are behind them. Slowing things down a bit was an advantage for us quickly in the third period.

At Anze Kopitar’s high level of play right now, and if his consistency almost takes him for granted
It’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 is a lot of talk about the goals he scores and the offense he creates, but it has never come at the expense of what he does really 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 are very good hockey players. They pick things up quickly in practice, that’s probably the area I’ve noticed the most. Believe it or not, it may sound strange, but you don’t have to go to the board to explain exercises, they see it once and they get it. It gives us a pretty good sense of their ability to read and react to things around them.

Additionally, McLellan said of Kevin Fiala that “he was trying to come back, a little 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 and reached 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 NHL debut (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 multipoint game, moving him two multipoint 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 to a fifth game (0-5-5). Byfield became the first Kings skater age 20 or younger to post an assist streak of at least five games since Darryl Sydor (age 20, 0-5-5, February 27-March 9, 1993). The last Kings skater age 20 or younger to establish a five-game hitting streak was Drew Doughty from February 8-March 4, 2010 (age 20, 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 to a career-high 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 in the Toyota Sports Performance Center.

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