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Helene Elliott: Kings get a much-needed boost ahead of critical divisional road trip

Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Hockey

LOS ANGELES — The Kings' season-high 50 shots on net produced merely two goals Saturday, both scored during power plays.

They gave up a short-handed goal to the Ducks and committed enough giveaways to raise questions about how well they'll fare if they replicate that during their upcoming trip to face division rivals Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. For the second straight game, they were unable to produce a five-on-five goal.

The negatives are worrisome. But what mattered most to the Kings was that they conquered their shootout demons to get two points they urgently needed, prevailing 3-2 Saturday at Crypto.com Arena after scoring twice on beleaguered John Gibson during the shootout to one goal for the Ducks against David Rittich.

The victory, their eighth straight against the Ducks, wasn't pretty. "It was kind of a grind game tonight, more than it's been in the last couple of years against Anaheim," Kings winger Adrian Kempe said. "Credit to them."

The best-case scenario for the Kings is that their second victory in seven shootouts this season will prove to be a confidence boost as they prepare for a challenging trip that could change their playoff positioning for the better — or for the worse.

"It was huge. Every point matters right now," said defenseman Matt Roy, who was credited with a career-high 10 shots on goal, nearly half of the defense corps' collective 21 shots on net. "We dug ourselves in a bit of a hole there in January so we need to take what we can get now."

Playing without steady defenseman Mikey Anderson, whose status was listed as week to week because of an upper-body injury, the Kings' defense was sometimes burned by the Ducks' playmaking off the rush. The Ducks didn't manage much sustained pressure in taking 24 shots at Rittich, but they created some problems. Defenseman Drew Doughty played 27 minutes and 34 seconds, a heavy load.

But the Kings persevered, emerging with two points that kept them close to Edmonton and ahead of the teams chasing them in the West wild-card scramble. "It was huge," Kempe said of earning the second point by winning the shootout. "I think we deserved the two points. Maybe it wasn't our best performance out there but it was a big win."

Missing Anderson and winger Viktor Arvidsson, who was placed on long-term injured reserve Saturday because of a lower-body injury, will test the Kings' depth. They should have enough to hold off the teams behind them, and putting Arvidsson on long-term injured reserve (which means he will miss at least 10 games and 24 days) gives them enough salary-cap relief to be able to make a move before the March 8 trade deadline.

The Kings and Ducks traded power-play goals in the first period Saturday, with Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg scoring on a shot from the left circle at 9:33 and the Kings matching that at 15:23 on a shot by Fiala, who used Anze Kopitar as a screen. Fiala has scored a power-play goal in three straight games, a stat that Kings interim coach Jim Hiller noted happily.

 

"Goal scorers, they like to feel it. Once you get one, all of a sudden you've got a little more confidence. Instead of thinking pass, you're thinking shot," Hiller said. "And I think that's what we're seeing with Kevin.

"I thought it was one of Kevin's better games of the year in the O zone. He looked like himself. He had a couple reverse hits. He protected the puck. He took people on, one-on-one. So I thought that was a really encouraging game for Kevin."

Special teams play was a factor again in the second period. The Ducks took a 2-1 lead on a short-handed goal by Sam Carrick at 9:08, a shot that appeared to deflect into the net off the body of Doughty. But Doughty brought the Kings even at 14:24 by taking a few strides in and unleashing a shot that eluded Gibson at 14:24.

In the shootout, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore scored for the Kings, while Leo Carlsson scored for the Ducks.

Earning two points was a relief as much as a reward for the Kings (29-17-10). But their satisfaction will be brief, with a game at Edmonton coming Monday. They set an NHL record with an 11-game road winning streak from the start of the season but stumbled through a road-heavy January. They were 3-1 on their most recent trip, to Buffalo, New Jersey, Boston and Pittsburgh.

"It's going to be a huge road trip playing Vancouver, who we haven't played yet, and then Calgary and Edmonton, that are two really good teams," Kempe said. "It's going to be a tough road trip. We're looking forward to it.

"I think we've been playing well lately. We've been playing hard and that's all we've got to do. And we've got to trust our game plan and just keep playing the way we've been playing and hopefully we can get some points on the road here."

That one extra point they earned Saturday could make a big difference later this season. Stranger things have happened.


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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