LOS ANGELES –– In their first ever home game against the expansion Seattle Kraken, the Kings looked every bit the established team as they cruised to a 4-2 victory at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday night.
Since Dec. 1, the Kings have gone 15-4-0 in games after a loss, tidying up what Coach Todd McLellan described as “disjointed” play in a 4-3 loss to Chicago on Thursday. They’ve picked up points in nine of their last 12 games. A 9-5 win by the Pacific Division-leading Calgary Flames over the third-place Edmonton Oilers further solidified the Kings’ position between the two Albertan clubs.
The Kraken lost for the first time in three outings, as a trio of consecutive wins has still eluded the franchise in its brief history.
Rookie defensemen Sean Durzi and Jordan Spence scored goals, as did center Anze Kopitar and forward Gabriel Vilardi. Kopitar added an assist and linemate Adrian Kempe had two. Cal Petersen made 23 saves.
Winger Daniel Sprong and center Morgan Geekie potted a goal apiece for Seattle. Philipp Grubauer stopped 23 shots.
A four-on-three power play allowed the Kings to pad their lead 3:35 into the closing stanza. Kempe, Kopitar and Durzi worked the puck in a triangular motion before Kopitar’s centering pass ricocheted off a body and then the end boards. The puck found Durzi, whose decisive shot hit both the pad and blocker of Grubauer but ultimately stretched the Kings’ advantage to 4-1.
The Kings regained a two-goal lead with 4:13 remaining in the second period. Center Blake Lizotte’s takeaway sent winger Arthur Kaliyev ahead on a counterattack. He turned the puck back to Spence, whose seeing-eye snap shot from the right wing boards at the blue line to the far side became the 21-year-old’s first career goal.
Petersen got his blocker on a point-blank redirection by winger Jordan Eberle midway through the second period to preserve a one-goal lead.
Seattle halved its deficit at the 6:29 mark of the middle frame with a tally in transition. Sprong received the puck on top of the left faceoff dot in his own end, burst ahead, weaved through the neutral zone and finished with a shot from the right circle for his 10th goal. He has two goals in as many games since being traded to Seattle.
The Kings had extended their edge 4:17 into the second period with a goal off the rush from their top line. Kempe made a blue-line-to-blue-line pass to Alex Iafallo, who occupied two defenders and slipped the puck to an open Kopitar. The captain went backhand to forehand for his 17th goal of the season.
The Kings out-shot Seattle 10-5 and buzzed late in the first period and scored with 4:55 left. Kempe and Kopitar had a two-on-one rush that fizzled out with a wide pass. Kopitar extended his shift, working a give-and-go with Rasmus Kupari, generating further momentum. Vilardi found a loose puck, dished back to defenseman Olli Maatta and then redirected Maatta’s deft shot-pass through a Kopitar screen for the game’s first goal.
It was Vilardi’s second NHL point, both goals, this season and his first since Oct. 24. He accumulated 38 points in 39 games in the AHL in between.