After wrapping up their six-game road trip with 10 out of a possible 12 points, the Kings have their sights set on the division lead and their first playoff berth since 2018.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
Thanks to a combination of excellent defense and timely goals, the Kings wrapped up their most successful road trip in franchise history with an unprecedented 4-0-2 record, putting them in second place in the Pacific Division heading into the all-star break.
The two-time Stanley Cup champions have a record of 17-5-3 against the Eastern Conference this season, earning 37 of their 55 points against foes from the east. On this road stand, the Kings allowed only 2.67 goals per game, a step up from the three games they dropped before the road trip, in which they allowed 5.33 goals per game. This was enough to give them 10 out of a possible 12 points, more than they have ever earned on any road trip before.
“Everybody was important, everybody played,” said Kings' coach Todd McLellan. “We got timely stops, timely clears, hit open nets when we needed to. Just a hell of a team effort tonight and on the whole road trip.”
The Kings started their 11-day journey with back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, a throwback to the teams they beat to win their Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
In the Devils game, the Kings came back from down 2-1 at the end of the first period to win 3-2, with left wing Carl Grundstrom scoring the game-winning goal. On the other hand, against the Rangers, the Kings blew a 2-1 lead and fell in an overtime shootout.
While in New York, the Kings took on the Islanders, almost blowing a 2-0 lead but holding on thanks to an empty-netter from Kings' first-time all-star Adrian Kempe.
The Kings lost their next game but stole a point against the Philadelphia Flyers when back-to-back goals in the third period from forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Anze Kopitar brought the Kings back from down 3-1 and forced overtime.
Even though the Kings came away with a point, their coach felt like they underperformed.
“We just weren’t sharp enough for the other 50 minutes,” McLellan told ESPN. “We weren’t sharp defensively, we didn’t check well. We’re probably lucky we deserved a point.”
Despite their success in the first four games of this stint, the Kings’ offense had yet to click and produce over three goals. The Kings lie second in shots on goal but are only 19th in scoring, averaging only 2.81 goals per game, but the energy changed in the final two games.
First, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Kings took a 3-1 lead in the second period, but blew the two-goal lead after Pittsburgh right wing Brian Rust scored twice, but Kings’ left wing Trevor Moore righted the ship with his second goal of the night.
Lastly, against the Detroit Red Wings, LA answered every time Detroit struck, taking a 3-2 lead midway through the third period. After an empty-net goal from Arvidsson and an answer from Red Wings center Joe Veleno, Kempe heaved the puck from his defensive zone into the net to give the Kings a 5-3 victory.
“It’s huge, especially before the break. We’re halfway through the season and these points, you need (them) on the road,” Kings' center Phillip Danault, who scored two goals in the win over Detroit, told ESPN. “We played awesome and got those points. It’s perfect before the break to be in playoff position. We’ll get back and work at it and push even more.”
During this stint, the Kings outshot their opposition by an average of 9.8 shots a game, a 30 percent increase from their season average of 6.9 shots.
Los Angeles will now enter a critical stretch of the season with 17 of their last 35 games against teams from the Pacific division. With seventh place Vancouver only nine points behind the Kings, any losing stretch could make or break the Kings’ playoff aspirations.
The Kings sit in second with 55 points, trailing the Golden Knights by two in the standings, and have multiple games left against each team fighting with them for a playoff spot. Some of their worst defensive games came against these teams as they allowed at least four goals to Las Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim and Vancouver.
Winning only four of nine games against Pacific division opponents thus far, the Kings have to lock down their defense the way they did in the east to stay in the playoff hunt. The Kings have been plagued by multiple five-game losing streaks this season, but this road stand may have given them all the momentum they need to stay consistent moving forward.
Highlighted by defenseman Drew Doughty’s 1,000th career game and second-overall-pick Quentin Byfield’s first goal, this trip may have been the spark that propels the Kings to the postseason.