FINAL – Kings 3, Jets 2 – Kempe, Durzi, McLellan

The LA Kings completed their road trip with another victory, this a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Saturday evening at Canada Life Centre.

Forwards Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar and Gabriel Vilardi scored in the victory, while Cal Petersen won his second consecutive start with 25 saves between the pipes.

The Kings opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game, with a shorthanded goal from Kempe, to take an early lead. With the visitors down a man, Phillip Danault fired on goal, with his shot denied by Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck, but Kempe crashed the net and had the puck go off his skate and in for the game-opening goal.

Winnipeg fought back, however, to equalize just over four minutes later. Following a huge Petersen save at the back post seconds earlier, forward Nikolaj Ehlers got a step down the left wing on the next trip down the ice and snapped a shot past the Iowan off the rush, tying the game at one.

Just past the halfway mark of the opening period, the Kings came back to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Defenseman Sean Durzi stepped up at the blueline to pick off an errant pass, creating a quick rush the other way. After his pass to Kempe was broken up, Kopitar collected the rebound and slotted it past Hellebuyck for his 18th goal of the season.

The tally of special teams goals increased from one to two early in the second period, as Vilardi scored his third goal of the season. With the Kings on the man advantage, Jordan Spence’s shot from the right point was deflected by Vilardi’s stick, pinballed off of a Winnipeg defenseman’s skates and in to put the Kings ahead by two.

With less than seven minutes to play in the second period, the Jets pulled back to within a goal through forward Adam Lowry. After Petersen made a save on defenseman Ville Hinola’s one-timer from the right-hand circle, the rebound fell to a dangerous area, with Lowry winning a clash of sticks and putting home his 11th goal of the season.

The Kings hung on throughout a scoreless third period to seal the 3-2 victory and conclude the road trip with five of a possible six points.

Hear from Kempe, Sean Durzi and Todd McLellan following tonight’s game.

Adrian Kempe

Sean Durzi
On the win and capping the trip on a high note
Yeah, it’s huge. 5 out of 6 points is a pretty good road trip. We knew coming in that good teams find a way and we believe that we’re a good team. We did our best tonight, I thought we played a pretty good period, they had a pretty good push there and we handled it well. We came out with two points and that’s all that matters.

On playing an increased role as of late with others out of the lineup
Yeah, it’s great and I think one thing for me is to just build a complete game for myself. I look at a guy like Drew and he does it all, he really does everything, He’s someone that I’ve really looked up to for my whole life and I’ve learned so much just playing with him this season that you can’t teach in classes, you learn by experience and playing with this guy. I learn from him every single day. I always give him credit for what a great player he is, but with experience this season, I’m feeling more comfortable, making better reads and just more confident in the systems. Reading what players do, tendencies, being used to the NHL speed. A lot of the top players are going to make that extra pass and you have to be ready for it. With experience and having each game, I’m learning a lot, making the most of it.

On if there is any chatter in the room about being able to get into the postseason, or if it’s strictly one game at a time
I mean, it’s a little bit of both. We know what’s at stake, we have a good leadership group who kind of let us know what this is, but for a young guy going through it, and with how many young guys we have, it’s maybe we’re not used to how important this is, to be in this opportunity of playing games right now that matters. There’s a lot of teams that are just finishing their season up, playing hard every night and working on themselves, but we’re playing as a team and we’re playing to win. It’s really exciting. You sit back, look at what’s at stake and it’s exciting for a rookie in the league to have this opportunity and go through it with this group. I think we’re becoming a pretty big family in there, every single win, every single character moment, every blocked shot, every hit you become closer. To go through this run together is something special.

Todd McLellan
On special teams play tonight
Yeah, we sure didn’t want to practice penalty kill for 11, 12 minutes tonight, most of that penalty kill came in the second half of the game. I really thought it was two different games. We played the game we wanted early, halfway through the night we started taking penalties and we gave them every opportunity to get back in. Once we were on the kill, we were spent, we were receiving the game after that. Two games in one, found a way to win on the road, tough schedule, good sign.

On his thoughts on how the team came out early, off of the off day yesterday
Yeah it was. I thought we needed more though from low-minute players tonight and it was a tough game for them to play, because there were so many penalties, but when they got out there, they needed to give us a little bit more. I’m thinking of Lias’ line in particular, by the end of the night we had cut down to three lines, but in the middle of the game, we needed a little bit more from them. It’s a learning opportunity for them, day off on the road, just a little flat there, but those three guys really contributed on the road and they’re going to continue to do that. We believe in them.

On his satisfaction with this road trip on a 1-10 scale
Probably the best way to answer that is five out of six, change the scale to six. This was a tough run. Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg are not easy places to play for a lot of different reasons. Each one of the teams is a little bit different, they all have superstars that are gamebreakers, outstanding goaltending for the most part, tough buildings to play in, not an easy travel schedule. Again, this is what our team needs right now. We need to go through these moments so that we will be better down the road for that. Down the road could be Monday against Calgary, it could be two weeks from now, it could be next year, I don’t know where it’s going to take us. We’re learning lessons as we go.

On the poise Cal Petersen showed in tonight’s win.
That’s a big part of the penalty kill, when your goaltender is calm. He made a lot of first saves and then was real good on scrambles, he got us whistles when we needed them. He knew what was happening in the game, he knew how the momentum was changing and he managed himself really well. Huge part of the win.

On getting shot blocks from Kopitar and Danault in the final 30 seconds
Phil had one in Calgary last night, hit him in the hand, Kopi today, those are our star players and they get it. They do get it. They’re not perfect, they’re going to make mistakes. We want them to score, be in the Top 10 in scoring, but they do some of those little things that allow us to win. I think it was Marc Bergevin that told me the other day that there’s statistical hockey and then there’s winning hockey. What’s nice about most of our guys is that they want to play winning hockey, they don’t give a you know what about their stats, they just want to win. It’s in our DNA, so we do a good job of it.

Notes-
– Defenseman Alex Edler extended his point streak to three games, with four points (1-3-4) in total on the three-game trip.
– Forward Adrian Kempe scored his team-leading 29th goal of the season early in the first period and added an assist for a multi-point game.
– Forward Anze Kopitar scored his 18th goal of the season, in addition to an assist on the game-winning goal, for a multi-point game.
– Tonight was also Kopitar’s 1200th career NHL regular-season game with all 1200 coming in an LA Kings sweater.
– The Kings scored a power-play goal, a shorthanded goal and an even-strength goal in tonight’s 3-2 win. They also went 6-of-6 on the penalty kill this evening.

The Kings are not scheduled to skate tomorrow and will return to action with morning skate on Monday in El Segundo.

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