On fan appreciation night, the Kings gave the modest crowd on hand the gift of bonus hockey, though they lost to the St. Louis Blues, 2-1, in overtime on Monday in their final game at Staples Center this season.
The Kings have won just two of nine overtime games and just one of eight one-goal games at home this season They now have just two games left on their schedule, road games at Colorado on Wednesday and Thursday.
Winger Alex Iafallo scored a goal for the Kings. Cal Petersen made his fourth consecutive start and sixth straight appearance, turning aside 17 of 19 shots.
Center Tyler Bozak and defenseman Justin Faulk scored for St. Louis. In addition to netting the game-winning goal, Faulk assisted on Bozak’s third-period goal. Jordan Binningon made 26 saves and extended his stretch without a regulation loss to eight games.
St. Louis scored 46 seconds into the three-on-three overtime period.
The puck pinged around the neutral zone, bouncing off sticks like a game of pinball with six flippers. It left the Blues with a two-on-one rush, during which winger David Perron slid the puck to Faulk, who delayed before he leaned one way and shot the other for a short-side game-winner.
“The puck bounced over (Adrian) Kempe’s stick and they took advantage of it,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, who said he felt his team was “too cute” offensively but solid defensively in the loss.
The Kings drew a penalty late in regulation that almost got them to the buzzer and nearly earned them a win. They had a solid chance with defenseman Drew Doughty taking the puck to the net. Moments later, Doughty created greater suspense when hit the post with a shot that also ended up behind Binnington but did not enter the net.
With around 3:30 left in the game, the Blues created a scramble as their power play was about to expire, but Petersen stood his ground and the Kings cleared the puck to safety.
“We took a penalty late and it put some stress on our penalty killers. Their power play has been one of the best in the league over the past two months, but our penalty killers did a good job,” McLellan said.
With 12:25 to play, the Kings had evened the score. Center Gabe Vilardi and defenseman Olli Maatta supported each other along the end boards before Vilardi centered the puck in front for Iafallo’s one-timer. It was Iafallo’s 13th goal, and Vilardi’s assist extended his point streak to four games (three goals, two assists during that span).
“I’m feeling comfortable right now,” said Vilardi, a 2017 first-round draft pick. “I’m playing with two good linemates that both work hard, and I’m able to get the puck so I can make more plays. We’re creating right now offensively.”
“I’m feeling comfortable right now, I’m playing with two good linemates who both play hard … we’re creating now offensively, but I still think we can do more,” Vilardi said.
Ironically, 6 minutes and 10 seconds earlier, the Blues’ goal began in similar fashion, but this time Vilardi’s linemate Lias Andersson, who later helped keep their scoring play alive, failed to secure the puck the Blues’ net. That sent St. Louis the other way in transition. Bozak trailed the rush which made three passes from the red line in, two of them off the backhand, before Bozak alertly slipped a backhand shot under Petersen’s pads.
The second period saw some sustained pressure from the Kings in the middle of the frame and the Blues came on toward the end. Through two periods, St. Louis had won two-thirds of the faceoffs.
Even so, the Kings had solid possession numbers. Their percentages-for stats – Corsi, Fenwick, Shots and Scoring Chances – all got stronger as the game progressed
“St. Louis isn’t a volume shooting team to begin with, they like to set up and wait for one really good shot,” McLellan said.
The first period had plenty of pace and crisp passing, as well as a power play per side, but only 11 combined shots and no scoring.
Prior to the game, Kings defenseman Matt Roy was announced as the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. One player from each team is selected by its local writers as a finalist for the award, which goes to the player who best embodies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The trophy honors Bill Masterton, a former Minnesota North Star who died as a result of head injuries he sustained in a game. The Blues’ nominee was winger Vladimir Tarasenko. Former Kings Jack Campbell, a goalie with Toronto, and Milan Lucic, a winger with Calgary, were also nominated.
WORK TO DO
The Kings finished 9-14-5 at home and lost 11 of their final 14 games at Staples Center after working their way into playoff contention in March. The Kings never won more than two in a row on home ice.
“Our younger players that have been in the league now for a year or two must show improvement,” McLellan said. “They have to begin to carry more of the load, offensively, defensively, game management. It’s a must that they graduate and move on to the next level, break through.”
The Kings only got to play a handful of home games in front of fans late in the season, but the players definitely appreciated the limited-capacity crowds, which they said restored at least some sense of normalcy in a season still largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know how many there is, if there’s 1,000 or 2,000 or whatever it is, even with that we can hear them and hear some of the chants,” Vilardi said.
News services contributed to this story.