Kings hold off Sharks, keep surging up standings

LOS ANGELES — The Kings continued their ascent in the Western Conference standings by weaving through a game where they could not pull away until the late stages, coming out ahead 4-3 against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night at Arena.

Forward Quinton Byfield set up the Kings’ first goal by winger Adrian Kempe and scored their second. Winger Gabe Vilardi scored just before defenseman Drew Doughty scored what proved to be the game-winner. Center Anze Kopitar stretched his point streak to five games with an assist on Byfield’s goal. Pheonix Copley turned away 26 shots.

Forwards Nick Bonino, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl scored for San Jose, with Meier adding an assist. James Reimer took heavy fire early and made 33 total saves.

The Kings have now won 10 of their last 13 games. That has elevated them into a points tie with both Pacific Division leader Vegas and Central Division-leading Dallas. Both those clubs have a better points percentage and more regulation wins and three games in hand, however.

Just 57 seconds after their third goal, Doughty added another on a play where he started the breakout and finished the rush with a tally trailing the play. His shot from between the circles was his third goal of 2022-23.

A frenetic shift from the third line and second pairing concluded with a go-ahead goal with 7:20 left when Vilardi turned his back to Reimer and deftly redirected a shot past him for his 17th goal of the season.

After killing off 10 straight penalties, the Kings ceded a power-play goal when the NHL’s most prolific defenseman, Erik Karlsson, and forward Logan Couture set up a snipe by Meier with 9:49 remaining in the game. It was Meier’s 14th career goal against the Kings, tied for the most he has scored against any franchise.

The Kings finished the second period the way they finished the first, with a one-goal lead that felt like it should have been more but that could easily have been even less.

After recovering the puck on the forecheck, defenseman Mikey Anderson recognized the good fortune of having two towering forwards, Byfield and Kopitar, screening Reimer. Anderson adjusted his shooting angle and let fly with a wrist shot that Byfield tipped home for his first goal of the season to reclaim the lead 6:58 into the second period.

Center Phillip Danault conserved that edge by denying defenseman Marc-Eduoard Vlasic on the backdoor on the following shift. Later in the period, a Karlsson snapper once again created havoc and required an alert skate save from defenseman Sean Walker to prevent a rebound goal by Meier, who had another near miss in the third period.

Though the Kings had the wind at their backs after the first period, they found themselves deadlocked once more 80 seconds after the first intermission. Copley got his glove on Karlsson’s snap shot but didn’t control the puck cleanly. Copley’s tepid poke check of the rebound went straight to Bonino, who backhanded it past him for an equalizer.

From their goal onward, the Kings were domineering in the first period. After being out-shot 6-2 initially, the Kings hit the net 20 times and allowed just two shots through to Copley in the remainder of the frame.

The Kings struck first when Kempe tapped in a pass off a powerful wraparound move by Byfield. Kempe’s 18th goal 5:59 into the match maintained his team lead over Vilardi.

More to come on this story.

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