LOS ANGELES — The Next Generation of Kings delivered a mighty blow to this era’s mighty franchise by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-2, on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Winger Gabe Vilardi, 23, led the effort with a goal and an assist. Centers Phillip Danault and Blake Lizotte each added a goal, as did winger Adrian Kempe as the Kings snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Lightning. Second-year winger Arthur Kaliyev and rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke combined on perhaps the best play of the night to set up Lizotte’s goal. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves for his second win of the season.
Wingers Brandon Hagel and Nikita Kucherov both scored unassisted for Tampa Bay, which has won two championships in its appearances in the last three Stanley Cup Finals. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots.
With 5:30 left in the game, the Kings sealed the deal after their top wingers generated a pair of two-on-one chances. First, Kevin Fiala knocked Kempe out of bounds for a quick shot which was denied by Vasilevskiy’s pad. Barely 20 seconds later, it was Kempe who led the race and opted, wisely, to shoot the puck. His wrist shot became his fifth goal of the season, tying him with Vilardi for the team lead. Kucherov would add a late goal which would have had no impact on the final result.
The first game of the closing period saw the Kings kill a pair of penalties, including 40 seconds of a two-man disadvantage, as well as frantic end-to-end action for both sides.
In the second period, the Kings extended their lead to 3-1 with a nice push in transition. Following a blocked shot, Kaliyev led the race and Clarke joined him. Kaliyev climbed up the wall and threw a flat backhand to Clarke, who baited defender Ian Cole, then dropped a pass to Lizotte for an uncontested goal 13:17 into the second period.
Tampa Bay defender Victor Hedman appeared to have halved his club’s deficit in the ensuing shift, but the goal was successfully contested by the Kings. Former Ducks winger Corey Perry was offside on the breakout that preceded Hedman’s potential score, leaving Tampa in a two-goal hole.
Just five minutes into the middle period, the Kings took the lead again with a power play goal. Drew Doughty’s point shot was deflected deftly by Vilardi, who sent the puck over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder and just below the crossbar.
Although the Kings killed their first penalty, they couldn’t protect an even-strength one-goal lead. A lob to the slot by defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was pushed out of play by Quick, who couldn’t recover as Hagel pounced on the puck and passed him with 4:46 left in the first period.
The first twist of the night came before the puck even dropped. Kings winger Viktor Arvidsson, who scored three points in a loss to Washington on Saturday, was ruled out at the last second with an unspecified illness. He also missed the second game of the season because he was sick. His position was assumed by Vilardi and his place on the roster was filled by Jaret Anderson-Dolan.
That didn’t stop Arvidsson’s trio from opening the scoring on Tuesday.
A shot attempt in traffic allowed Vilardi to storm the goalmouth and batter the puck until it came out from under Vasilevskiy’s right leg for Danault to sweep into the net for the first goal of the match, 7:20 after the start of the match.
The Kings had lost 10 consecutive games to the Lightning since Jan. 16, 2017, which was the second-longest active streak in the NHL behind Arizona’s 19 against Boston.
The Kings’ slippage included losing five straight home games in the series, and Vasilevskiy had defeated them in seven straight starts.
More to come on this story.
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