LOS ANGELES – The first couple weeks of the Los Angeles Kings’ season has been defined by blown leads. On Thursday night, they showed that they are able to come back after falling behind early.
Adrian Kempe broke a tie with 3:50 left and Los Angeles Kings overcame a two-goal deficit to beat Colorado Avalanche 4-2 for their first victory of season.
“I thought we showed quite a bit of character,” said Anze Kopitar, who had two assists. “We were a little too hesitant at the start. Once we got the forecheck going, we got sustained pressure.”
Kempe, who was moved to the top line, took a centring pass from Kopitar and beat Hunter Miska in front for his second goal of the season.
Blake Lizotte tacked on an empty-net goal, while Drew Doughty and Gabriel Vilardi also scored for Los Angeles (1-1-2). Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots on his 35th birthday.
After three one-goal losses to start the season, including two in which the Kings were up by two going into the third period, coach Todd McLellan was pleased that his team was able to pull one out.
“It wasn’t a Picasso, but we don’t need the perfection right now,” he said. “It was a happy night at the end but it was a stressful night throughout.”
The Kings tied it with a pair of power-play scores in the second period. Doughty had a one-timer from the right faceoff circle at 3:35 while the Kings had a two-man advantage. Vilardi evened it with 2:10 remaining in the period when he beat Miska top shelf on his glove side.
Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon each had a goal and an assist for Colorado (2-2-0). Miska made 23 saves in his first NHL start.
Miska’s only other NHL appearance came on Nov. 13, 2018, for Arizona, when he played the final 18:16 at Detroit and allowed one goal on nine shots.
“Miska, he battled. He played hard for us tonight,“ Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. ”I think if you look at the power-play goals, it’s just a little bit of inexperience. He’s probably a little bit deep on both, and they found the top part of the net on him.”
After Rantanen’s one-timer opened the scoring at 4:49, MacKinnon put Colorado up by two with 45 seconds remaining in the first when he went top shelf on Quick’s wrist side for a power-play goal.
Colorado’s Bowen Byram, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, made his NHL debut. The defenceman was on the Avalanche’s taxi squad for the first three games.
Byram saw 11:19 of ice time. He picked up his first penalty on his second shift when he was called for holding.
“Definitely some nerves and jitters at the start there. I thought I calmed down later in the first, and second and third I felt pretty good out there,“ he said. ”I think I did some things well and I think there are some things I can improve on, but overall I think it’s a good starting point for me.”
Kopitar played in his 1,077th game, which ties him with Luc Robitaille for third in club history. He should pass Dave Taylor (1,111) for second place later this season barring injury.
Avalanche: MacKinnon and Rantanen extended their points streak to three games. MacKinnon has two goals and five assists during that span while Rantanen has five points (three goals, two assists).
Kings: C Andreas Athanasiou had the second assist on Vilardi’s goal and has a point in each of his first four games with LA (three goals, one assist). The four-game streak is tied for the longest of his career.
Avalanche: Continue their road trip with two games against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and Sunday.
Kings: Kick off a four-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.