The Kings secured their first win away from STAPLES Center since January 1st on Saturday evening, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 at Amalie Arena.
In dire need of a victory after going winless in their first three games of their road trip, the Kings knocked off the NHL’s best team on home-ice, snapping the Lightning’s 10-game win streak in downtown Tampa Bay.
Getting an early lead played in favor of the Kings, who have found themselves playing from behind on a regular basis this season. It wasn’t just the opening goal the Kings buried, but the first three, as they built 3-0 lead on Tampa Bay during the first period.
Tyler Toffoli got the Kings on the board less than two minutes into the game, pick-pocketing Tampa Bay’s Valterri Filpulla then walking in alone on Ben Bishop, beating the Lightning goaltender with a quick move to the backhand.
“It was just a good forecheck and they turned it over and it was a little two-on-one,” Toffoli said of his goal. “I just beat the D-man wide and it snuck in.”
Justin Williams gave the Kings a 2-0 lead midway through the first, slamming home a beautiful pass from Trevor Lewis as the Kings pushed on a 3-on-2 rush. Williams found himself alone in front of Tampa Bay’s net after Lewis drove the puck wide and deep into the Lightning’s zone.
Drew Doughty upped the Kings’ lead to 3-0 with less than a second left in the first period. After a remarkable shift where the Kings kept the puck lodged in Tampa Bay’s zone, Doughty walked in from the half-boards and beat Ben Bishop to the short side. Dustin Brown provided a wonderful screen for Doughty’s shot.
Ben Bishop was pulled after the first period; he allowed three goals on the Kings’ nine shots during the opening frame.
Tampa Bay responded with a goal early in the second, and with a goal early in the third. The only negative aspect to the Kings’ game Saturday evening was their opening shifts of the final two periods, where the Lightning were able to strike twice.
With just over 12 minutes to play in regulation, Justin Williams provided the much-needed insurance to reclaim a two-goal lead for the Kings. Williams, after receiving a touch pass from Marian Gaborik in the neutral zone, flew into Tamba Bay’s zone in-stride, and fired a rocket past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Kings a 4-2 lead.
Williams’ third period marker was his 100th in a Los Angeles Kings uniform.
“The most important thing was scoring the fourth goal,” Coach Darryl Sutter noted following the game. “Our goaltender was great again. We gave up too many scoring chances, which is what we’ve come to expect, and so we need to score more than two goals. Tonight we did.”
The Kings showed heavy focus on their defensive play Saturday night, as they combined for 13 blocked shots to take some of the workload off of Jonathan Quick. The Kings managed to keep the Lightning’s speedy offense at bay, laying 27 hits on the opposition.
“That’s how we win games,” Doughty said of the Kings’ heavy defensive mindset. “We’ve got to play gritty, we’ve got to play physical, we have to block shots, and then the goals will come.”
For the Kings, it was the club’s first win on the road in five weeks, and their first win of what has been a rather disappointing road trip thus far. The Kings are now 15-1-3 this season when leading after two periods.
“It was big,” Anze Kopitar said of the win. “We didn’t get points for quite a bit now. So to get on the board again and kind of stop this bleeding right now, it feels nice.”
Justin Williams (2G) and Robyn Regehr (2A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), Tyler Toffoli in shots taken (5), Drew Doughty in shots blocked (4), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (29:50). Jonathan Quick made 26 saves in the win.
With the win, the Kings’ record jumps to 22-18-12; their mark away from STAPLES Center improves to 6-12-6. The Kings are now 1-3-0 on their current five-game road trip, which they’ll put a cap on Monday night when they pay a visit to Nationwide Arena to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The puck is slated to drop at 4:00 PM PT.