Sometime down the road, the Kings might get paid back for this cruel twist of puck luck.
One of their most consistent forwards this season simply tried to make a play he routinely makes, and it ultimately ends up in a 3-2 loss Thursday to the Edmonton Oilers that left the Kings seething at Rogers Place.
“Tonight’s a frustrating one,” Drew Doughty said. “It’s going to be tough to forget for the next couple of hours, that’s for sure.”
Doughty couldn’t speak enough about Alex Iafallo, one of their best forecheckers who has quietly turned in strong games at both ends of the rink. It was with symbolic irony that Iafallo’s delay-of-game penalty led to the game-winning power-play goal by Oscar Klefbom with 2:20 remaining.
“‘AI’ makes so many great plays for our team, if anyone is going to try to get on him about that, that’s not the way it is,” Doughty said. “‘AI’ plays amazing for us every night. He works his bag off. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great person. When guys like that make little mistakes like that, it’s on the PK to stop it and not allow that goal to go in.”
Trying to clear the puck out of his zone, Iafallo sent it across the ice, out of play, at the benches with the score tied 2-2 with just more than three minutes remaining. The Kings controlled the third period and were ready to run their winning streak to three games with Jonathan Quick back in goal. But Edmonton prevailed on Klefbom’s shot from up top through a thicket of players.
“I felt like it was pretty easy for you guys to see,” Quick said of the goal. “A shot from the point. It went in.”
Quick saw much action in his first start since Oct.23 because of knee surgery. He shook off rust and kept the Kings in a wide-open, physical game, notably with a save on Jujhar Khaira in the opening period. Yet Quick remains winless at 0-4-1. Asked how it felt to return, he said, “It felt like we lost.”
Lost in their performance was the fifth goal in three games by Dustin Brown, the first goal by Jeff Carter in 12 games and the more noticeable role of Ilya Kovalchuk.
As always, there was Doughty, the target of several Edmonton hits, including one from Connor McDavid after Doughty lost his helmet. Doughty helped the Kings end their 0-for-26 road power-play drought when he drew consecutive penalties on Khaira and Zack Kassian.
The two-man advantage allowed Carter to one-time Anze Kopitar’s saucer pass to tie the score, 2-2. Brown’s slap shot from the right circle halved the deficit following a defensively challenged opening 10 minutes that yielded goals by Jesse Puljujarvi and Alex Chiasson.
Kovalchuk played 14 minutes 11 seconds and was on the first power-play unit and third line after interim coach Willie Desjardins had Kovalchuk in a fourth-line role the previous two games.
He took shifts in the third with Carter and Tyler Toffoli, who was stopped by 6-foot-7 goalie Mikko Koskinen late.
The Kings got one final shot from the perimeter by Kovalchuk, but he was stopped by Koskinen, his former teammate in Russia.
“It was hard,” Carter said. “Those are the games we put away. [It’s] a little disappointing.”
Gabriel Vilardi made his professional debut Thursday, for the Ontario Reign, and played more than 15 minutes in a 3-2 win at Bakersfield.
It was the first game of a conditioning assignment for Vilardi, 19, the Kings’ first-round draft pick in 2017 who is trying to return from a chronic back injury.
When: 6 PST.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)
Update: Mike Smith reportedly will start for Calgary instead of David Rittich, who shut out the Kings on Nov.10. The Flames have scored 26 goals in the last six games.