Carl Grundstrom’s goal caps Kings’ rally to beat Coyotes
The Kings scored three goals in the third period to salvage two points from their four-game homestand and gain two significant points on the Arizona Coyotes, whom they defeated, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
They now trail the Coyotes by seven points for the final playoff berth in the West Division. Elsewhere, fifth-place St. Louis snapped its seven-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Vegas and Minnesota thumped Colorado, 8-3.
Center Jaret Anderson-Dolan, forward Adrian Kempe, forward Jeff Carter and winger Carl Grundstrom scored for the Kings. Defensemen Kale Clague and Drew Doughty each contributed two assists. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves and did not allow a goal on 14 shots in the final 34:05.
Winger Lawson Crouse had a goal and an assist to pace Arizona. Defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin scored his first NHL goal and winger Johan Larsson also scored for the Coyotes, who lost for only the second time in eight games. Jakob Chychrun and forward Christian Fischer added two assists apiece, and Adin Hill made 26 saves.
“I think (a character win) is a good way of putting it. Obviously, all four lines and six defensemen played some role in it,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Falling behind wasn’t something we wanted to do but certainly coming back makes at least this night feel better and should give us a little confidence moving forward.”
With 6:05 to play, the Kings completed their rally from two two-goal deficits. It was Doughty, who called out his team’s play vociferously following Monday’s loss to Arizona, launching a slap shot into traffic that was tipped first by Trevor Moore and then by Grundstrom for the go-ahead goal. Doughty assisted on the winning and tying goals after ripping his team’s recent efforts Monday, logging over 29 minutes and blocking two shots.
“That’s called leadership. You put yourself out there with your words and then you follow it up with your actions,” McLellan said. “We’re fortunate to have him and a few others who have been through the big battles.”
The Kings drew even off a five-man cycle, scoring their second goal in a three-minute span. Doughty sent a low, soft wrister toward the slot where Carter deflected the puck against the flow of play and into the net. It was Carter’s second goal and fourth point in the past month, and Doughty earned the primary assist.
“(Doughty) plays with a lot of emotion and he’s very vocal – on the ice and in the room – and I think everyone feeds off that,” Clague said.
The final frame started with a spark for the Kings as they finished killing a penalty and then got a goal off the rush with a give-and-go play 77 seconds into the period. Kempe hit the blue line with some momentum and sent the puck to Clague, whose touch-pass set up Kempe’s one-timer to the short side. Kempe has recorded a point in two straight games after notching just one in his prior 11 games.
“It was a clear-cut three-on-two. Claguer made a great play back to me and the goalie wasn’t ready for it, so I just tried to get it off my stick as quick as possible,” said Kempe, who played center rather than wing Wednesday.
In the second period, the Kings again stumbled and then showed some more resilience. After surrendering a goal, they put together an aggressive rush that ended when center Anze Kopitar was denied improbably by the back and rear end of Hill. Clague delivered a massive open-ice hit on rookie winger Michael Bunting, who scored a hat trick Monday.
“We need really good nights from him with guys out of the lineup,” McLellan said of Clague. “Since he’s come back up, he’s played quite well, both offensively and defensively.”
That desperation was the result of again falling down by a pair of scores just under six minutes into the period. Right winger Phil Kessel moved the puck high in the zone to Chychrun, who tweaked his shooting angle before zipping a wrist shot that was deflected downward and between Quick’s legs by Larsson.
The opening 20 minutes again saw the Kings fall behind by multiple goals – they trailed 3-0 Monday and 2-0 Wednesday – but it was decidedly more competitive.
That included a goal late in the period that halved Arizona’s advantage with 2:39 remaining. Moore’s centering pass was deflected toward Anderson-Dolan, who popped the puck upward and past Hill on the short side. Grundstrom occupied Hill in front effectively. It was Anderson-Dolan’s fifth goal, placing him one behind center Gabe Vilardi for tops among Kings rookies.
With 5:16 left in the first period, the Coyotes had taken a two-goal lead when they recovered the puck off the forecheck before Crouse fired a shot wide that bounced to Lyubushkin for a hard shot to the near side. It was his first goal in 118 career games.
The Kings struggled to generate offense early but got three shots on their first power play, nearly scoring on an exhilarating sequence between center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown. A tic-tac-toe passing sequence saw Kopitar find Brown on the doorstep, but he was stoned by hill and then stick-checked by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Kopitar collected the puck and attempted a wraparound, but he could not turn it on goal before it sailed wide to the wall.
Arizona got on the board 30 seconds before the midpoint of the period. Chyrchrun threw the puck on net where it hit Quick, was swiped at by Fischer and was finally put home by Crouse for his third goal of the year.
Kopitar played in his 1,111th game Wednesday, which moved him into a tie with Dave Taylor for the second-most games played in franchise history. Brown is the all-time leader.
Taylor, who was coincidentally in Staples Center to witness the milestone as a scout for St. Louis, was previously the general manager of the Kings. During his tenure, he drafted both Kopitar and Brown, as well as Quick. Last season, Taylor discussed what has made Kopitar, a two-time Selke Trophy winner and two-time Stanley Cup champion, so successful over so many seasons.
“It’s a combination. His size, reach, hockey sense, the way he can protect the puck and his mobility for a big man is very good. He’s got high-end hands, hockey IQ, skill and he can shoot,” Taylor said. “For me, there’s no weakness. He’s a true No. 1 center.”