Goalie Joonas Korpisalo is solid in his debut to help Kings beat Blues
Joonas Korpisalo made 24 saves in his Kings debut and Gabe Vilardi had a power-play goal to help the Kings to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
Kevin Fiala, Adrian Kempe and Carl Grundstrom also had goals, and the Kings won their third straight game. Los Angeles has won five in a row at home.
“Awesome game,” said Korpisalo, acquired from Columbus on Wednesday. “Guys played really well and helped me a lot today, especially in the end. After they scored their second goal, I don’t think I had any shots after, so it was a great job.”
The Kings followed their major trade with Jonathan Quick by dealing for Flyers forward Zack MacEwen before the NHL trade deadline.
Kasperi Kapanen had a short-handed goal, Robert Thomas also scored and Jordan Binnington made 33 saves, but the Blues failed to earn a point for the fourth time in five games.
“We were able to battle pretty good,” Blues defenseman Justin Faulk said. “They play a tight defensive structure, and it’s tough to break through that. Sometimes against these guys, you’ve got to win the special teams battle, and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Kings traded for Korpisalo to give them a viable option if Pheonix Copley, the 31-year-old journeyman who has unexpectedly posted a 19-4-2 record, fades down the stretch or in the playoffs.
Their first look at Korpisalo was mostly a promising one, although a better showing on Kapanen’s breakaway that tied it at 2 with 7:49 remaining in the third could have helped soothe the sting fans felt about trading away franchise icon Jonathan Quick.
“I thought he looked really confident,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said if Korpisalo. ”Not easy to play with a new team, not understanding the calls or touches or what may or may not happen. Part of goaltending is predictability, and you’re coming into a situation where you don’t really know the team at all.
“He made some really good saves.”
The mood turned positive again after Vilardi faked out Binnington with some nasty puck-handling to score the go-ahead goal with 3:03 remaining. Fiala added an empty-netter with 1:56 to go.
“I think these are the kind of games we’re going to see,” McLellan said. “It’s getting closer to the end of the year. Not a lot of space, kind of slugging it out in the corners and tight areas. ... Then the special teams come into play.”
Look ma, these hands
Vilardi scored for the third straight game, and all three efforts have included impressive displays of puck handling.
“It’s not an easy thing,” McLellan said. “You’ve got to have real good hands, and while you’re doing everything, you’ve got to have a sense of what’s going on around you so your awareness is still alive and you’re not just looking at the puck. ... He’s getting to use them a lot more and looks good doing it.”
King of trios
Since Quinton Byfield joined a line with Kempe and center Anze Kopitar, the trio has emerged as one of the most effective groupings in hockey.
When Kempe chased down Byfield’s flip pass and scored on a breakaway for a 2-1 lead with 7:50 left in the second, it gave them 16 goals and 16 assists combined in 11 games since the All-Star break.
McLellan said Byfield was OK after being shaken up on a hit late in the third.
Notes: Blues F Jakub Vrana, acquired from Detroit in a trade Friday, was finally able to join his new team after weather delayed his flight. Coach Craig Berube expects Vrana to make his debut in the finale of the three-game road trip on Tuesday. ... Thomas played in his 300th career game. ... Kings D Drew Doughty played in his 1,077th career game to tie Luc Robitaille for fourth-most in team history.
Up next for the Blues: At Arizona on Tuesday night.
Up next for the Kings: Host Washington on Monday night.
Jonathan Quick led the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships, but for them to contend again the front office needed to make changes.
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