FINAL – Kings 4, Lightning 2 – Danault, Vilardi, Clarke, McLellan

The LA Kings evened their record on the season at 4-4-0 with a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday evening at Arena.

The Kings got a multi-point effort from forward Gabe Vilardi, who tallied a goal and an assist, as one of four different goalscorers in the victory. The victory for the Kings was their first of the season on home ice, to begin a three-game homestand.

The Kings got on the board 7:20 into the game as Phillip Danault scored for the second consecutive game. After a nice play by Vilardi down low, Danault beat Tampa Bay netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy at the near post for his fourth goal of the season. The goal was not initially signaled on the ice, but was confirmed after what appeared to be a review sequence.

Tampa Bay pulled even less than five minutes from the break, however, through Brandon Hagel. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev floated a puck towards the top of the crease, that Jonathan Quick pokechecked, but the puck hit back off of Hagel and deflected back to him with an open net for the goal, his second of the season.

LA scored twice in the middle stanza to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

First, with the Kings on their third power play of the evening, defenseman Drew Doughty shot a puck towards the net that Vilardi deflected on the way through for the go-ahead goal. Vilardi’s goal gave him a multi-point night and his team-leading fifth goal of the season. Midway through the second period, forward Blake Lizotte opened his account for the season, as he finished a pass from Brandt Clarke at the back post. Clarke’s deception and hesitation set up the tap-in, his second career NHL assist.

The hosts added an insurance goal with just over five minutes to play in regulation, as Adrian Kempe buried his fifth goal of the season off the rush. After he was denied on a back-door feed moments earlier, Kempe got another chance on a 2-on-1 rush and beat Vasilevskiy clean to push the Kings ahead 4-1. Anze Kopitar collected the lone assist on the play, his team-leading sixth of the season.

Tampa Bay added a late consolation goal from forward Nikita Kucherov to bring us to the final score of 4-2.

Hear from Gabe Vilardi, Phil Danault, Brandt Clarke and Todd McLellan following tonight’s game.

Phil Danault

Gabe Vilardi
On what he felt went well for him tonight, sliding up onto the second line
I’m just playing hard, that’s it. I’m just trying to keep it simple and play hard every game. Arvy goes out, that’s a tough loss for the team. When I slid in, I got to play with Mooresy and Phil, who I played with a little bit in the preseason, and that was a big win for our team today.

On what he felt the Kings did better as the game went along
I think our neutral zone tonight, they didn’t create much coming through there and I think we held them up really well. Our breakouts were cleaner as the game went on and that was huge for us in transitioning from defense to offense.

Brandt Clarke
On his assist to Blake Lizotte late in the second period
It was kind of late in the shift, so I’m happy about that [Lizotte] finished it off so the guy wasn’t going the other way. I knew that I had a lot of time and space in the middle of the ice and when Arty got me the puck, I just tried to make something happen.

On if he’s thinking at all about the nine-game mark or just going along with things, day-to-day
I’m just letting things take care of themselves. I’m doing video with the coaches, I’m still a part of the team, so I’m just going day by day and enjoying my experience right now. I’ve been welcomed into the NHL and I’m just happy with how everything is. I’m happy to be on this team and just going to keep going for here.

On getting a win against a team like Tampa Bay tonight
I think it’s huge. Coming off the tail end of that road trip, we didn’t finish how we wanted to, especially in that third period against Washington. I think it was a big step for us. It’s a talented team and going in with a two-goal lead again into the third period, we didn’t want to blow the lead last time but I think we used it as a good learning lesson. We kept the pedal to the medal for all 60 minutes this time.

Todd McLellan
On what he felt was the most impressive part of tonight’s win
I thought our penalty kill was very good, against an outstanding [power play]. There were a whole bunch of good things tonight, but I thought our penalty kill gave us a strong belief. 5-on-3, a few other situations, we drew a penalty on our penalty kill, great goaltending. That was a real important thing and then fewer homerun chances for the opposition. We’re not perfect, but there were fewer and I thought we committed more to checking than we have in the past.

On if he would compare this win to last year’s team, stylistically
Last season is last season, I think I’ve said this 100 times, this is a brand new slate for us. Yeah, there are some tendencies that showed up, which is a good sign, but I’d like to think we’re moving in the right direction, even the game in Washington, other than the comeback. We’re starting to do some things characteristic of last year, but this is this year’s group. We’ll still find our way and evolve as we go.

On learning from mistakes in Washington and closing out the game with a strong third
We aggressively checked, and sometimes when you ask your team to check, they back off and they’re just standing and taking it, but we aggressively checked. When we had to go up ice, we went up ice. When we had to do what we needed to do in the neutral zone, we did it. We were all playing the same system for the most part, versus off on our own.

On Gabe Vilardi and not changing his approach with a line change
I can’t say enough about the young man, he’s been outstanding since training camp. The fact that Arvy wasn’t able to go after warmup, it was a bit of a surprise to us, but things got shuffled quickly and he has the toolkit to be playing up there. He’s got a lot of confidence on the power play right now, he’s checking well, using his body, his size. I think, as he leaves the rink every day, he’s really enjoying the game and he’s earned it.

On Brandt Clarke as he approaches nine games played this season
I think the fact that we keep using him, and putting him out in all situations. Special teams, 4-on-4, down by a goal, up by a goal, he seems to find his way out on the ice, so obviously we believe in him or we wouldn’t be doing that. The organization has to sit down and make decisions on what’s right for him, for us, for the future, for now. All Brandt has to do is worry about practice tomorrow and he’s done a really good job of that and he’s gotten great guidance from the older players in the locker room. That’s all he has to worry about, and he keeps worrying about only the next day, pretty soon it’s going to be June of next year and he’ll be flying home. If he gets too far ahead of himself, it gets tough.

*Viktor Arvidsson missed tonight’s game with an illness, per Todd McLellan. Arvidsson did take warmups tonight, and was a part of line rushes, but wasn’t feeling well enough to play.

Notes –
– Gabriel Vilardi recorded his fifth goal of the season, tying his total through 25 games last season. Vilardi’s two-point game marked his fourth multi-point game of the season, tying him for the most in the NHL.
– Forward Adrian Kempe also scored his fifth goal of the season tonight, tying him with Vilardi for the team lead.
– Forward Phillip Danault scored for the second time in as many nights, with his fourth goal of the season, while Blake Lizotte scored the game-winning goal, his first of the season.
– Jonathan Quick made 23 saves on 25 shots, as he earned his second victory of the 2022-23 season.
– The Kings went 4-of-4 on the penalty kill tonight, their second consecutive perfect PK. The Kings have killed off 14 of their last 15 penalty kills overall.
– Tonight marked the first victory on home ice for the Kings this season.

The Kings are scheduled to practice tomorrow morning at 11 AM at the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo.

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