FINAL – Kings 4, Sharks 3 – Byfield, McLellan

The LA Kings picked up another two points in the standings, courtesy of a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday evening at Crypto.com Arena.

The Kings got a goal and an assist from forward Quinton Byfield, while forwards Adrian Kempe and Gabe Vilardi, as well as defenseman Drew Doughty, also scored in the victory. Goaltender Pheonix Copley made 26 saves to secure his 12th victory of the season.

The Kings opened the scoring with the lone goal from the first period to take a 1-0 advantage through 20 minutes. Byfield was the facilitator, as he evaded a hit down the left wing, rounded the net and fed Kempe in front, where he cashed in with his team-leading 18th goal of the season, his fifth over his last six games.

San Jose equalized just over a minute into the middle stanza through forward Nick Bonino, who tied the game at one. Copley made the original save on defender Erik Karlsson’s shot from the left point, but the rebound could not be cleared and Bonino buried from the right-hand circle for his fifth goal of the season.

The hosts responded well, however, as Byfield tallied his first goal of the season to put the Kings ahead 2-1. Defenseman Mikey Anderson fired a shot from the center point, deflected by Byfield in the slot, that found its way past Reimer for the goal. The multi-point night for Byfield was his first of the season and the third of his NHL career.

The Sharks pulled level for the second time with a power-play goal from forward Timo Meier, who continued his hot run of form against the Kings. Early in the sequence, Meier walked in from the left-hand circle and snapped his shot past Copley from a dangerous area to put the game even at two apiece.

With two goals in 53 seconds, the Kings got the insurance they needed to take a 4-2 lead into the final stages of the third period.

First, off of another redirection, Vilardi picked up his 17th goal of the season with a tip from the slot, beating San Jose netminder James Reimer to put the Kings back on top. Less than a minute later, Doughty added his third goal of the season with a heavy shot off the rush. The veteran trailed the play, took the drop pass from forward Phillip Danault and went high on the glove side for the goal and a 4-2 advantage.

With just over two minutes to play, San Jose pulled a goal back through forward Alexander Barbanov. With the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, Barbanov trailed the play, crashed into the slot and fired home through broken coverage for his seventh goal of the season.

Hear from Byfield and Head Coach Todd McLellan following tonight’s game.

Quinton Byfield
On getting rewarded for his play as of late
Yeah, you know as I said this morning as well, the chances were there, it was just kind of bearing down. I got a tip goal today, those are definitely nice to get, it was a nice shot by Mikey and I just tried to get a stick on it, those feel good.

On what he saw on Kempe’s goal, on which he picked up the primary assist
Kopi had the puck, he was curling and I tried to curl to the far side with speed and just give him an option. He gave me the pass and I saw I think it was Karlsson stepping up on me and I just wanted to beat him wide, I knew I had a step there. I didn’t really have an angle to shoot and there weren’t any bodies in front yet, so I took it around the net. Then I saw Kopi and Juice, just tried to put it out in front and see if one of them could get it.

On the evolutions in his game as of late
I’ve been playing hard, just trying to get a little bit more physical, I think that’s been my game lately. Just being kind of a defensive presence as well, getting back, breaking up passes, blocking shots, just doing all the little things right and I got rewarded tonight.

On the team finding a way tonight on a difficult night
I think we kept playing and got back in the game. We had the foot down a few times and we kind of just let off a little bit and they kept clawing their way back in. There were a couple of good shifts we put forward there, some real nice plays on the goals and we ended up winning the game.

On if he cares about playing at center versus on the wing
If I can play on the top line with those guys, I’ll play anywhere. If I can just get minutes with those guys and get a lot of opportunities, I’ll take it anywhere it comes.

Todd McLellan
On finding a way to win on a night when the Kings didn’t have their best game
It wasn’t our finest game, obviously. I didn’t think that we had the details or the commitment to win that was needed. Right off the bat we did, but when it didn’t go our way we kind of got away from it. Extended shift length in the second period, I think we had 16 or 17 of the skaters all at almost 50 seconds or more, that didn’t happen in the past two weeks. There were some areas of the game I thought we cheated a little bit and we clearly need to have a practice or two, which we will get. But, when you’re not playing your best, it’s nice to find a way to win. I think a couple of years ago, we wouldn’t have won that game when we weren’t playing our best. We’re probably down by two and maybe looking for some moral victories. Now, we can truly evaluate and admit when we’re not the best and then try and fix it.

On seeing Quinton Byfield get rewarded tonight
It was good to see him get rewarded around the net, maybe that’ll give him some offensive confidence. He’s had some looks, probably since going up on the wing and it hasn’t gone in for him and you could feel a bit of frustration for him. So, as a young player, having that relief come, maybe we’ll see more of that and he made a nice play on the goal. It was a good night offensively for him.

On having organizational depth to overcome injuries to key forwards
What I like about our team right now is the balance. We’ve got three pretty good forwards that are watching, unfortunately one was sick tonight in Arvy and the other two are injured, but when they come back, we have internal competition up front and we have balance. I’ve talked about this before, if you’re the opposing coach, you’re picking Phil’s line, Kopi’s line and all of a sudden that leaves our leading goalscorer and our leading scorer for somebody else to play against. It’s worked well for a couple of weeks and we’d like to see it continue.

On what makes Jaret Anderson-Dolan the right choice to move up tonight
Trusting, he’s become a trusting player. I think he feels good, you’d have to ask him, but I think he feels good in a certain role and accepting certain responsibilities. I think he feels it when he gets rewarded and gets to be put out in a checking situation. There’s penalty-kill time for him that may be coming, but I think he’s transformed his mindset into being a valuable, trusting player. Just like all the kids that enter the league, they think they’ve got to be scorers. It happens for some, others make real good careers playing 10 or 15 years, scoring 10 a year and being trusted.

On Sean Walker hitting 200 games and his progression back this season
Coaching Walks is easy because he shows up and wants to get better. He just doesn’t show up because practice is at 11, put his time and leaves at 12. He shows up, wants to get better, he’s a committed player that’s proud, so some nights when he doesn’t play, he’s feisty there , which is a real good sign too. Think of what he’s been through and how far he’s come. His play from the first, call it 7,8,9 games until now, significantly better, but he needed that time. He needed to experience things to get his game going again but he played well.

Notes –
– Adrian Kempe scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season for his fourth goal and fifth point (4-1-5) in his last five games.
– Quinton Byfield (1-1-2) collected his first goal of the season and the third multi-point game of his career.
– Defenseman Sean Walker skated in his 200th career NHL game this evening, all coming with the LA Kings.
– Gabriel Vilardi tallied his 16th goal of the campaign, eclipsing the 30-point plateau for the first time in his career.
– Drew Doughty scored his third goal of the season to hit the 25-point mark for the 14th time in his career. His goal stood as the game-winning goal, his first of the season and 29th of his career, tying Rob Blake for most game-winning goals in franchise history among defensemen.
– Anze Kopitar recorded an assist on Adrian Kempe’s first period goal to extend his point streak to five games (1-4-5). Kopitar has 68 points (26-42-68) in 89 career games against San Jose, fifth against the Sharks in league history.
– Mikey Anderson notched his ninth assist of the year for his 11th point (2-9-11), tying his career-high previously set in the 2020-21 campaign (1-10-11).
– Phillip Danault earned an assist to push his point streak to four games (1-3-4), giving him points in 11 of his last 12 games (6-7-13).
– Pheonix Copley stopped 26-of-29 shots for his 12th victory of the season, improving his record to 12-2-0 on the year. No NHL goaltender has more wins since his season debut on Dec. 6 than Copley’s 12.
– With tonight’s victory, the Kings swept the season series against the San Jose Sharks for the first time in franchise history.

The Kings have a scheduled team off day tomorrow and will return to the ice for practice on Friday, January 13 at 11 AM.

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