Kings recover from big embarrassment with rout over Coyotes
A broken skate blade was the only thing that was going to stop the Kings at Staples Center.
It was the most comical sight of Saturday’s 6-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes: Anze Kopitar dragging Tanner Pearson to the Kings bench after Pearson’s boot malfunction in the first period.
The Kings then dragged the Coyotes into the abyss with a strong forecheck that had been absent in their recent losses, and Darcy Kuemper extended his nearly impeccable backup work with his second shutout in a row.
Alex Iafallo started the forecheck that led to the first goal, a rarity for the Kings lately. He set up Adrian Kempe for a shot and was positioned in front to tap in Tyler Toffoli’s pass for his fifth goal this season.
From there the Kings were on their way to erasing from their memory a 5-0 loss to Nashville on Thursday.
“We needed that response,” Iafallo said. “We did a lot of preparation. We were ready to go tonight. We’ve got to keep that feeling [going] and keep at it here.”
The only puck the Coyotes got past Kuemper was called back on offsides in a get-well victory teed up for the Kings after one of their more demoralizing losses.
“When things go south for us like last game, guys are eager to back out there and right the ship,” Kuemper said. “We look at our mistakes and what was causing problems — everyone’s buying in to change those, and I think that’s why we’ve had such good bounce-back games lately. Now our challenge is to not have those [slips] in-between.”
The line of Kopitar, Iafallo and Toffoli invaded Arizona’s zone all game and Trevor Lewis, Kempe and Jake Muzzin stretched it open with goals in the second period.
Kopitar reached the 20-goal mark for the eighth time in his career.
“I feel like we got pucks deep and we were just controlling the ice, especially in the offensive zone,” Iafallo said. “But it starts in the D-zone. I feel like if you play all the zones, it worked out well for us.”
The caveat was that Arizona brought an NHL-worst 33 points and minus-57 goal differential to the game. It did not bring goalie Antti Raanta and instead started backup Scott Wedgewood.
Of course, the Kings weren’t proud of their own, maddingly inconsistent game lately and change was reflected in the scratches of Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. Gaborik was dealing with a minor injury but coach John Stevens said in the morning that all his forwards were healthy. Gaborik has no goals in his past 11 games and only three assists in that span.
The Kings also did not dress defenseman Alec Martinez because of a lower-body injury, but the rest of the defensive cast kept the puck moving and Kuemper handled whatever came his way in front of the announced crowd of 18,230.
Muzzin struck five seconds into a power play. He lifted a shot to the far side as Dustin Brown obscured Wedgewood’s view.
It was a rough period for Arizona defenseman and former Kings player Luke Schenn. He committed a holding penalty to give the Kings the power play, and his giveaway led to the Kings’ third goal. Kempe hounded Schenn into a turnover near the boards that Brown grabbed and set up Kempe for his 15th goal. Arizona challenged that Pearson interfered with Wedgewood but the goal stood.
Lewis delivered the highlight goal of the game, on perhaps the highlight goal of his career, on a shorthanded breakaway that represented his career-high 13th goal. Torrey Mitchell fed Lewis for a 130-foot free skate to the net and Lewis slipped a smooth backhand past Wedgewood for a 2-0 lead.
“I think everybody was willing to pay the price to win the game today,” Kempe said. “I think we did a good job on the forecheck. We created a lot of chances from there. That’s the game we want to play.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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