The Kings employed a bit of the crab mentality on Monday night, yanking the Arizona Coyotes back into the bucket with a 3-2 victory at Gila River Arena.
Though the Kings had effectively been eliminated from postseason contention, Arizona entered the game clinging to slim hopes of catching fourth-place St. Louis, which beat the Ducks on Monday. The Coyotes have not qualified for a traditional playoff bracket since 2012, when they lost to the Kings in the Western Conference finals.
The Kings got out of the funk that saw them come away with only a split of four critical games against the last-place Ducks, lose to Arizona 4-0 and also drop a game to Minnesota in which most barometers of success favored the Kings.
“You could tell everybody had a great game. Up and down, the whole lineup,” winger Alex Iafallo said.
Center Anze Kopitar notched a goal and an assist to move within one point of 1,000 for his career, while Iafallo and winger Trevor Moore also scored goals for the Kings. Jonathan Quick stopped 17 of 19 shots before exiting the game with an upper-body injury at the second intermission. Cal Petersen relieved him and turned away all 15 shots he faced.
Center Christian Dvorak and defenseman Jacob Chychrun tallied for Arizona. Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves.
The Kings were able to weather a modest storm from the Coyotes in the third period and a more fervent one with Kuemper pulled. They largely denied Arizona any second-chance opportunities. Rookie center Quinton Byfield also did his best Evgeni Malkin impersonation, protecting the puck as he maneuvered about the offensive zone fending off defenders.
The Kings began the second period a man down and Chyrchrun made them pay for defenseman Tobias Bjornfot’s transgression. Winger Connor Garland faked a shot and slipped a pass to Chychrun, who dragged the puck to load up a hard wrister. He fired a laser off the near post and into the net, beating a set Quick with a precise shot 53 seconds into the frame.
Yet 7:40 into the stanza, the Kings found another equalizer, this time off the rush. A strong breakout during an Arizona line change sent the Kings up ice with speed. Forward Adrian Kempe, who skated on the top line since Iafallo moved down in the lineup, sent a saucer pass over defenseman Alex Goligoski’s stick and to Kopitar for a one-timer.
“(Kempe and Iafallo) flipped positions and I thought they both played pretty well,” Kings Coach Todd McLellan said.
The goal was Kopitar’s 13th of the year and the 998th point of his career.
Kopitar netted point No. 999 with a saucer pass of his own to defenseman Drew Doughty, who sent a blast to the net that generated a rebound for Iafallo’s 12th goal of 2021. It was Iafallo’s first power-play goal in 33 games, his first goal in 10 matches and his first point in nine contests.
“It’s incredible just to even be out there with him. (Being) one point away, it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment,” Iafallo said of Kopitar.
Although winger Clayton Keller had a pair of near-misses late in the period, the Kings carried their one-goal edge into the second intermission.
In the first period, the Kings had mounted an 11-2 edge in shots on goal and dominated possession but found themselves down a goal with 2:50 remaining.
Three Kings followed winger Lawson Crouse down low, who reached the puck first below the goal line and centered it in front for Dvorak. He received the puck and went forehand to backhand to sneak the puck past a lunging Quick, who went to the poke check and tripped Dvorak as he scored in a watered-down “flying V” moment.
Five Kings defenders were at or below the faceoff dots but could not sort out the back-check against two Arizona forwards.
A mere 35 seconds after they fell behind, the Kings knotted the game.
Moore scored his 10th goal of the season, unassisted, after he controlled a loose puck following an offensive-zone faceoff. He stepped into a wrist shot for his fifth goal and seventh point in his last nine games.
Moore had a partial breakaway earlier in the period, which saw the Kings earn more than two thirds of possession in terms Corsi-for, Fenwick-for, shots-for and scoring chances-for percentages.
“The first period was as good of a period as we’ve played in a long time,” McLellan said.