FINAL – Kings 7, Wild 6 – Fiala, Kempe, McLellan

The LA Kings moved into the win column on one of the strangest nights we’ve seen in a while, a 7-6 win over Minnesota on Saturday evening.

Seven Kings players had multiple points in the victory and 11 skaters got on the scoresheet with at least one point. Cal Petersen earned his first victory of the season with 29 saves in net.

The Kings jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Adrian Kempe, Gabe Vilardi and Drew Doughty.

First, the Kings top line broke through at even strength as forward Kevin Fiala fed a streaking Kempe with a cross-ice pass of the rush, and the Swede buried his wrist shot from the right-hand circle for his second goal of the year. Vilardi followed up with a goal of his own off the rush, as he took a feed from Alex Iafallo and pulled the puck to his backhand and in for a 2-0 lead. Doughty pushed the advantage to 3-0 with a power-play goal, a one-timer off a feed from Anze Kopitar.

Minnesota fought back with two goals of its own, however, to pull within a goal late in the first period. First, defenseman Jake Middleton fired a shot from the left point that evaded traffic and goaltender Cal Petersen for his first goal of the season. With 3:17 left in the first period, forward Marcus Foligno shook loose in the slot, dragged the puck to his backhand and scored from close range to move within 3-2.

The visitors added a fourth goal, however, with 92 seconds to play in the first period to take a 4-2 lead into the first intermission. Stationed at the right point, forward Alex Iafallo let go a slap shot that evaded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for Iafallo’s second point of the evening and fourth point of the season.

The teams traded goals in the second period, with each team finding the back of the net twice to push the score to 6-4 through 40 minutes.

Minnesota pulled to within a goal through forward Joel Eriksson Ek, who converted on the power play, before Fiala picked up his third point of the night with a power-play goal of his own, a blistering one-timer from the right-hand circle . His even-strength linemates, Kempe and Kopitar, tallied the assists on the play as the Kings scored their second of the night on the man advantage.

The Wild pulled another one back on the power play, through forward Kirill Kaprizov from close range, but the Kings answered once again, this within one minute of conceding. Stationed at the center point, defenseman Matt Roy fired a shot clear through a moving screen in front and past goaltender Filip Gustavsson for his first goal of the season.

Just shy of six minutes into the third period, Minnesota pulled back to within a goal, courtesy of its third power-play goal of the evening. Stationed at the left point, forward Mats Zuccarello sent a shot through on goal and in. Just over a minute and a half later, Sam Steel tied the game at six, as he dug the puck out of a crowded crease and slotted home his first goal of the season.

The Kings bounced back less than a minute after conceding, however, as Kempe buried his second goal of the evening. Off the rush, Kopitar hit Kempe in the slot for a high-danger chance, which Kempe buried with a quick release to put the visitors ahead again. Kempe’s multi-goal game was the first of the season by a Kings player, with Kopitar tallying three assists in the process.

The Kings were able to hold on at 7-6 for their first win of the season. Hear from Kempe, Fiala and Head Coach Todd McLellan following tonight’s win.

Kevin Fiala

Adrian Kempe
On a different sort of game tonight, but getting the win
Yeah, offensively it was a good game for us, especially after the first couple games when we didn’t really feel like we had enough offense going, so that was a step in the right direction. On the other side of the puck, I think we still have some things we’ve got to improve, but I think we deserved the win tonight. If it was 1-0 or 7-6, it doesn’t matter right now, this was a huge first win and we got better in all three zones. Good thing and a good win for the team.

On the power play clicking as it did tonight
Yeah, for sure, and I think we showed a lot of that in the preseason. In the first couple of games, I feel like you’re trying to get back into everything, you’re a little nervous when you get out there. It felt good out there tonight, I thought both units looked good. Somethings we can keep building on.

On getting the response goals the team did tonight
Yeah, huge, I mean that’s momentum. The way you can get that back, it’s huge. I think we invited them, including myself, too many penalties tonight, so that’s something we’ve got to improve still. PK did a good job at the end, in the third, which is huge. We’re all excited about the game.

On Kevin Fiala tonight and the play of his line
Yeah, we had some more looks, we’ve played a couple of games together now, we’re trying to figure each other out through the first couple of games. When you start to figure it out, you know where each other is on the ice. We had some good chances so far in the first three games and we got a couple of good ones tonight.

Todd McLellan
On the first win of the season and a 7-6 game
I think if you told us we were going to score seven goals, I would have been jumping for joy. It’s the giving up six that isn’t the ideal recipe and that’s a really hard game to explain. I’m not sure that we’re going to give six goals up and win a game again this year, so that’s the negative side of it. The positive is that we found ways to score seven. Strange night, maybe that’s what we needed to get a win and find a way. Rest and get ready for Detroit.

On the team having more of a shooting mentality tonight
Yeah, we were, but really, there wasn’t a lot of volume both ways. The shots weren’t 50 to 49 or anything like that, it just seemed to be going in the net, didn’t matter what happened. Whether it bounced or went straight in, it was an odd night for both teams in their zones. I thought both teams did a real good job of penalty killing, yet gave up power-play goals. For a lot of years in the league, this one’s tough to explain.

On the strong performance from the power play in tonight’s win
We saw more from our power play tonight than we did in the first two games. We had a lot of changes, we’ve got new people in new places, we’ve got some new thoughts and ideas of how it wants to work. It’s going to be a work in progress, but you can see little snippets of things that are starting to happen and that’s a positive sign. Penalty kill, again, the best penalty killer we can have is not being in the box, I think we’re short six times from the beginning of the second period on. That’s a terrible recipe for success and we’ve got to find out a way to solve that and the penalty kill can do a better job.

On getting response goals twice tonight within a minute of conceding
Important, very important, especially on the road. You can feel the momentum starting to go their way and to come back and have your key players execute and score in those situations is important. Just when the opposition is creeping back into the game and they get nailed with another one, that can do wonders for us. It buys us time to regroup and get our legs under us again.

On the thought of “get us that big save” down the stretch, and a weird game for goaltenders
I would say that, I would say probably both teams were thinking the same thing. Get us the save and we’ll get you a goal. Obviously that was the way the night was going and we did give up six, I’m not sure that we can pin them all on Cal Petersen. So, what’s important for him is he got a win, he’s got some confidence as far as winning goes, and the team got that, but it’s pretty evident we have to clean some things up.

Notes –

– Anze Kopitar moved into sole possession of third place on the LA Kings all-time points list (1,070) with his assist on Fiala’s second-period goal, surpassing Dave Taylor (1,069 PTS). Kopitar finished with three assists on the evening.
– Kevin Fiala registered the ninth career three-point game (1-2-3), including his first goal and first three points as an LA King. Fiala became the second Swiss-native in franchise history to record a point.
– Alex Iafallo extended his season-opening point streak to three games with a goal and an assist tonight
– Gabriel Vilardi recorded his second multi-point game (1-1-2) of the season, the sixth of his career.
– Drew Doughty tallied his first goal of the season, and he is now tied for the most career points versus Minnesota among defensemen with 33 career points (7-26-33).
– Matt Roy (1-1-2) registered his first goal and first assist of the season.
– Mikey Anderson (0-2-2). playing in his home state, collected his first two points of the season and also established a new single-game career-high five blocked shots.

The Kings have a scheduled off day tomorrow and will return to the ice on Monday in Detroit for morning skate.

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