It took a game in which their top line didn’t register a point for the Kings to turn in one of their best all-around games of the season.
No one was debating the results Saturday, a 5-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Their second, third and fourth lines scored in a successful display of depth and a glimmer of positivity before they left for a four-game trip.
Here’s what we learned:
The third line looked good. Nikita Scherbak, Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli put together some strong shifts early before the lines were changed up some because of Kyle Clifford’s absence.
Scherbak couldn’t have gotten to a better start, with a goal on his first shot as a King. It was a goal-scorer’s masterful shot, even though he said, “I didn’t even see how it went in.”
Young players have done well in spurts for the Kings, from Austin Wagner to Matt Luff and, lately, Brendan Leipsic and Scherbak. Whether they will still be here when Ilya Kovalchuk, Carl Hagelin and Trevor Lewis return is another question.
“Those guy have lots of growing to do,” interim coach Willie Desjardins said of the young set. “It was good to see Scherbak in there. I thought he’s got good skill. And it’s always nice to see that in the lineup.”
There could be repercussions from the hit on Clifford. Clifford was hit directly in the head by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the second period and left the game with an upper-body injury.
No one can accurately predict the NHL’s Player Safety Dept. and its decisions, but it seemed like a textbook example of what the league doesn’t want to see.
“He got his head, for sure,” Desjardins said. “So the league will have to take a look at it.”
The defensemen were active. Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort combined for one goal and four assists. The last name is notable because Forbort scored his first goal in a season marked by good and bad spells.
Kings’ defensemen improved from 155 points to 189 points last season, the first year of former coach John Stevens. But they’ve underperformed this season and Saturday was a tick in the right direction.