This was all about second acts — or maybe, in the case of new Kings center Vinny Lecavalier, a third act.
The Kings didn't waste much time working their two newest players — Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn — into their system, putting them in the lineup against Toronto. Lecavalier set up the Kings' first goal despite not having played since Nov. 12.
For the Kings, who beat the Maple Leafs, 2-1, at Staples Center on Thursday night, it was the sixth victory in their seven games since the Christmas break and kept their lead in the Pacific Division at 10 points over Arizona. It was a dramatic reversal from their last meeting, in which the Kings had lost, 5-0, to Toronto on Dec. 19.
Scoring for the Kings in the third period were defenseman Jake Muzzin and center Jeff Carter, the latter in his first game back after missing five games because of an upper-body injury. Marian Gaborik set up Carter with a deft pass down low.
The goals were 5 minutes 12 seconds apart, breaking open what had been a back-and-forth physical game. Lecavalier worked along the boards to get the puck out and found Muzzin, who beat Toronto goalie James Reimer with a shot from above the left circle at 2:53, making it 1-0. Toronto had a coach's challenge on the play to review whether Kings forward Michael Mersch had interfered with Reimer.
The goal stood, and the league's situation room explained that "no goaltender interference infraction occurred before the puck crossed the goal line."
"I was just trying to hold it, trying to get that body position," Lecavalier said. "I saw him [Muzzin] kind of creep in. It was a great shot, right in the top corner.
"This team is not like all over the place when they play. It's a support game and makes things so much easier."
Toronto forward Peter Holland cut the Kings' lead to 2-1 at 10:05 of the third period on the power play, scoring his seventh of the season, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a shot from the middle of the right circle. Kings forward Trevor Lewis had gone off for slashing Tyler Bozak.
Lecavalier and Schenn were acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday in exchange for rookie forward Jordan Weal and a third-round draft pick. They flew to Los Angeles from the East Coast and did not arrive in time for Thursday's morning skate.
"For the first game, I felt good," said Lecavalier, who started his NHL career in Tampa Bay. "I was afraid my legs wouldn't get going because of the traveling and lack of sleep the last few days. I felt really good."
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter opted to scratch center Nick Shore and forward Andy Andreoff and defenseman Jamie McBain. Shore had played in all 39 of the Kings' games this season.
Lecavalier, who said he will retire after this season, found himself in a greatly diminished role in Philadelphia. He had appeared in seven games this season with the Flyers, recording one assist, which came in their season opener, and he spoke about his frustrations in a pregame interview.
"The decision for me to go there was mainly for Peter Laviolette, and he left after three games," Lecavalier said of the 2013-14 season. "He got let go and the mentality kind of changed and I wasn't really part of their plans after that. Very frustrating, but I'm happy I'm here now."
Schenn praised Lecavalier for how he handled the difficult turn of events. "You know what? I think if you ask any guy on our team in Philadelphia, a guy with that career, and the way the situation was the last couple of years, he's nothing but a true professional," Schenn said. "He's handled it better than anyone possibly could."