Late goals by Gabe Vilardi and Anze Kopitar lift Kings over Canadiens
Gabe Vilardi and Anze Kopitar scored in the third period and the Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Thursday night.
Alex Iafallo also scored and Pheonix Copley made 19 saves to help the Kings win their fourth straight home game.
“You want to build that confidence at home,” Kings defenseman Sean Walker said. “We’re home basically all of March, so that’s going to be key for us. A lot of games we’re gonna have to win down the stretch here.”
A day after being traded from the Kings to Columbus, Jonathan Quick is flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights, who are battling L.A. for first place.
Josh Anderson had a power-play goal for Montreal. Denis Gurianov also scored and Jake Allen made 30 saves.
Goals from Vilardi and Kopitar 1:03 apart in the third proved to be the difference in the Kings’ first game since trading Jonathan Quick, the most accomplished goalie in franchise history.
Vilardi put Los Angeles up 2-1 at 7:27 of the third, shooting into the top netting with Allen down on one knee. Kopitar made it 3-1 1:03 later on a wrist shot from the slot, continuing his hot streak after scoring four times at Winnipeg on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I was happy that our guys stuck with it and found a way to win,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.
Vilardi reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in the NHL, an important milestone for the 2017 first-round draft pick who looked as if his career trajectory would be stalled by a lingering back injury.
“He’s had the skill level to do it,” McLellan said. “We thought if we could get a healthy year out of him, we believed he could score.”
Although Gurianov cut it to 3-2 with 10:21 remaining, getting his first goal in two games since being acquired in a trade from Dallas, Montreal couldn’t come up with the tying goal and can now shift its focus to Friday’s trade deadline.
Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson is one player that could be moved after playing for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on Jan. 26.
“When you’re one of the bottom teams, no one’s safe really,” he said. “It’s going to be a long day, but we’ll focus on the game tomorrow night and whatever happens happens.”
Up next for the Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
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