The Los Angeles Kings will resume their chase of Pacific Division-leading Vegas on Tuesday when they host the Golden Knights following the three-day holiday break for both teams.
Vegas, which began the season a blistering 13-2-0, has a Western Conference-best 49 points. Los Angeles, despite sputtering out of the gate with a 6-6-1 start, has closed within five points of the Golden Knights and brings a five-game point streak (4-0-1) into the contest.
Despite the Kings’ strong run that started with a shootout win at NHL points leader Boston, Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said his team needed the holiday break to recharge. Los Angeles played three games in four nights, registering home wins over the Anaheim Ducks (4-1) on Tuesday and the Calgary Flames (4-3 in overtime) on Thursday before finishing a back-to-back with a 2-1 road shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.
“I thought it was a gutsy point by our team,” McLellan said. “Our gas tanks were running low and they checked very well. It was a gutsy, gutsy (effort) by our team.”
Nick Schmaltz had put the Coyotes up 1-0 with a first-period goal, but Alex Iafallo answered with a power-play goal to tie it midway through the second period. Nick Bjugstad scored the winner in the second-round of the shootout on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who stopped 23 of 24 shots in his first start since Dec. 11.
“It’s important to get something from a game any way you can,” McLellan said. “Three games in four nights, we overplayed some players, fell behind. The fact that we came back, I think it was a character (performance). I keep going back to that.
“These games, pre- and post-All-Star break, Christmas, they’re hard to play. A lot of times they can be blowouts. One team takes off and the other team is done. I was happy the way the guys dug in.”
Iafallo added, “It was a good point that we needed. Obviously wanted two points, to get a win. But looking at the positive, we did get a point heading into the break.”
Vegas snapped an ugly 1-6-0 home stretch with home wins over Arizona (5-2) on Wednesday and the St. Louis Blues (5-4 in a shootout) on Friday heading into the break.
The Golden Knights are an NHL-best 14-2-1 on the road this season, including a 4-3 victory over the Kings in the season opener on Oct. 11, when Mark Stone scored the game-winner with 26 seconds remaining.
Stone also came up big again in the Friday win over the Blues when he had a goal and an assist and also scored the shootout winner in the fourth round.
“Getting two points heading into the break is huge, especially at home,” Stone said.
Los Angeles’ Chandler Stephenson had the game-tying, six-on-four power-play goal with 1:36 remaining to go along with three assists for his fourth career four-point game, while Michael Amadio added a goal and two assists for Vegas.
“Lots of resiliency,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “These are tough games (before the break) to play as a home team. Across the league you’ll see that. Teams’ minds and players’ minds get wandering. They’re looking forward to the break for obvious reasons. …
“I know it’s a shootout game. It doesn’t matter right now. You take the points at this time of year.”
–Field Level Media