Kings fall short in shootout loss against Canucks
LOS ANGELES –– With an opportunity to climb to the top of the Western Conference standings, the Kings lost their footing against the Vancouver Canucks, losing 3-2 in a shootout at Crypto.com Arena Saturday despite commanding much of the match in nearly every aspect.
The Vegas Golden Knights were idle Saturday, leaving them in a points tie with the Kings but with the primary tiebreaker in hand. Elsewhere in the division, Evander Kane’s hat trick propelled the Edmonton Oilers to a victory over the Seattle Kraken in a clash of the third and fourth place teams presently, leaving Edmonton within four points of the Kings.
Defenseman Alex Edler and winger Carl Grundstrom scored goals in regulation. Joonas Korpisalo made 15 saves, saddling him with his first loss as a King since being traded from Columbus on Feb. 28. The Kings are now 6-0-2 since the swap that brought them Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, and they haven’t lost in regulation at home since Jan. 19.
Winger Brock Boeser and center Elias Pettersson tallied for Vancouver during regulation time. Defenseman Quinn Hughes and center J.T. Miller contributed two assists apiece before Miller joined winger Andrei Kuzmenko as the only scorers in the shootout. San Diego native and former Junior King Thatcher Demko was a leviathan between the pipes, beating back 38 shots. He’s won five of his last six starts and six of eight overall since returning from injury Feb. 27.
“Demko was incredible tonight, he kept us in the game,” said Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet, who added that he hoped his club flipped its switch in support of his performance. “LA’s an impressive team, they defend really well and we didn’t have an answer the first two periods then we kind of played better in the third, a rope-a-dope and we win the game.”
Vancouver appeared comfortably on pace for the fewest shots on goal in regulation time of an NHL game this season, but a late surge allowed them to hit the net one more time than the San Jose Sharks did in their 6-0 loss to Colorado on March 7.
After peppering Demko with 40 shots through 60 minutes, the Kings failed to hit the net once in the extra session or score in the shootout.
Prior to that, their domineering play stretched across events and situations alike for the Kings but a combination of narrow misses and otherworldly goaltending left the game in peril for them all evening.
Demko made his latest stop on Anze Kopitar and then the Canucks drew a penalty. Pettersson scored his 32nd goal of the campaign from the right faceoff dot a mere six seconds into the man advantage. That leveled the contest with 8:27 to play. Pettersson has recorded a point in 10 straight meetings with the Kings as part of 19 points in 12 confrontations overall.
“They’re a lethal team on the power play,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We gave them one chance and it was in our net.”
The Kings buzzed early in the third period as they had late in the second, forcing Demko to make five saves in the first two minutes and continuing to carry play up until the penalty.
Though they’d dominated possession, draws and the shot total alike, the Kings didn’t have their first lead until there was only 3:42 remaining in the middle frame. Grundstrom started the sequence by separating Hughes from the puck behind the net with a powerful check and then finished it with a point-blank goal off a pair of passes in tight. His ninth goal matched his career high from last season.
Right at the midpoint of the game, forward Quinton Byfield proffered a powerful individual effort to generate a scoring chance and on the same shift Adrian Kempe earned a penalty shot. But Byfield’s shot went wide and Demko stonewalled Kempe. Less than a minute later, Demko was under considerable fire until he thwarted defenseman Jordan Spence and sent the puck out of play.
“I think we can play that game over again and have a chance at success,” McLellan said. “I ring off opportunities with Kempe’s penalty shot, (Phillip) Danault walking in all alone, Kopi had a three-on-one. I could go on and on.”
With 3:08 left in the first period, the Kings knotted the score. Hughes fanned on a shot, leading to a Gabe Vilardi steal. Vilardi hit a trailing Edler for a goal from between the circles. It was Edler’s second goal of the season and the first of his career against the team he played for between 2006 and 2021.
The Kings registered the first eight shots of the game but Vancouver netted the first goal, nearly 11 minutes into the match. A muted counterattack turned into an unexpected goal, Boeser’s 13th of the year. He received the puck near the red line, gliding to the top of the right faceoff circle and flicking a shot at the net. It was partially blocked by Edler, creating a waffling, knuckling effect that allowed it to flutter past Korpisalo on the far side. Boeser has 13 goals and 18 points in 14 matchups with the Kings.
“I think we played good enough to win. Their goalie was good and we took them to overtime and a shootout,” Edler said plainly.