A sentimental moment of any hockey team’s season is when a player scores his first NHL goal. Play stops, the camera zooms in on his face during the celebration while a teammate retrieves the puck from the net.
The Kings have followed the ritual three times in their first 14 games. Alex Iafallo on Saturday joined Kurtis MacDermid and Michael Amadio as Kings to notch their first NHL goals this season.
They are fuzzy snapshots, but they also speak to a shift toward younger players in the organization getting an opportunity. That window didn’t exist much during the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship runs because of roster limitations in relation to the salary cap but also because there wasn’t much need to alter a winning lineup.
The Kings have since gradually integrated their prospects, from Adrian Kempe to Iafallo, Amadio and MacDermid. Jonny Brodzinski and Justin Auger also have cracked the lineup this season. General manager Rob Blake said the Kings have been able to trust in their younger players because they’ve earned it through lower levels, such as the Swedish Kempe learning the North American game in the American Hockey League.
“Same with Michael Amadio, Jonny Brodzinski and Auger,” Blake said. “They all have the same type of path. As long as they’re responsible, they’re going to get their minutes when they come up.”
Iafallo’s goal 16 seconds into the third period kick-started a Kings rally that erased a three-goal deficit. Christian Folin and Alec Martinez also scored, but the Nashville Predators eked out a 4-3 win on Viktor Arvidsson’s overtime goal.
It didn’t take away from Iafallo’s collecting his memento. He was so close countless times earlier this season.
“Everyone’s starting to wonder about his scoring and everything,” Kings coach John Stevens said, “but I think the process in his case is going to be a lot more important than the outcome. But it’s just a matter of time.”
Rare overtime loss
The Kings have generally owned overtime since the implementation of the three-on-three format in the 2015-16 season. Their 25 victories in three-on-three play are the most in the NHL. Nashville has won in overtime only seven times in that span.
Stevens still didn’t hide his disdain for falling short Saturday.
“Losing sucks, to be honest with you,” he said. “There’s no other way to say it. You want to get two points … you can be happy with the point because it didn’t look like we were going to get one, but I flat-out don’t like losing. Overtime or regulation, it’s not much fun.”