Carl Grundstrom was a long way from Umea, Sweden, when he raised his arms in giddy triumph.
The Kings’ new prospect began his hockey career there, and his journey took him from Toronto to Southern California and Arizona, where his dream came true with a goal in his NHL debut Saturday. Grundstrom didn’t have to think long when asked how long he thought about the moment.
“Since I was 5,” Grundstrom said. “Maybe.”
Grundstrom’s first career goal was the talk of the night for the Kings in an otherwise forgettable 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. The Kings lost for the 13th time in 14 games and remain well positioned for the No. 1 pick in the draft.
But this is a time to evaluate current pieces such as Grundstrom, whose boyish, 21-year-old face goes against a hard, power-forward game mixed with speed. His goal happened when he took the puck off his skate and tapped it in from the crease after Derek Forbort’s shot in the second period.
Grundstrom later had a takeaway at center ice to set up another scoring chance. Adrian Kempe, who got the Kings’ other goal on an impressive drive to the net, has seen it before, having played with countryman Grundstrom for the well-known Swedish club team MODO.
“It was good for him,” Kempe said. “I think we’ve got some good chemistry. He got the first one, and he worked hard for it all game. He was really good on the forecheck. He played simple and hard and that’s what we need from him.
“It’s not very many that score in their first game. He’s been playing well in the minors, too, and he’s a good goal scorer.”
Grundstrom didn’t know he would make his debut until Friday in Tucson, when Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers told him he wouldn’t play that night because he was being recalled. On Saturday morning, Grundstrom went through a game day with the Kings.
“It was a little different than the AHL,” Grundstrom said. “A little nicer hotel, a better meal. [But] it wasn’t that. I tried to play my best game and try to be me out there.”
Coach Willie Desjardins played Grundstrom more than 13 minutes, on a line with Kempe and Tyler Toffoli, and will look to further integrate the former second-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Grundstrom was acquired in the trade for Jake Muzzin and is known as an agitating presence with skilled nuance to his game.
“It’s not just the big things you see,” Desjardins said. “He does a lot of really small things well, too, that sometimes go unnoticed. It’s good. He fit right in.”
Grundstrom’s goal pulled the Kings to 2-2 as they reversed the game back in their favor until Christian Dvorak’s second goal of the game midway through the third period.
The Kings outshot the Coyotes 17-8 in the final 20 minutes. They also allowed a power-play goal to Dvorak and a short-handed goal to Michael Grabner in the first period. Grabner made it 4-2 with a breakaway goal, off a steal of Ilya Kovalchuk’s pass.
“I thought our third period was good,” Desjardins said. “Guys played hard, and they could have had a better fate.”
Jack Campbell made 28 saves, with 14 in the second period to keep it 2-1.
Kale Clague returned home and will be evaluated Monday for a lower-body injury, according to general manager Rob Blake. The defenseman prospect left Friday’s game when he blocked a shot for the Reign.
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Update: A scheduling oddity makes this the teams’ first meeting since Nov. 6, when the Kings won 4-1 at Staples Center. More than half a dozen rookies could be on display, including Ducks winger Troy Terry, who became the first rookie in franchise history with back-to-back three-point games. Ducks winger Nick Ritchie was fined $4,121.86 for cross-checking Christian Folin of the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.