LOS ANGELES –– The Kings had lost bodies (nine of them) and games (two of two) to the Nashville Predators this season, but that was of little import Tuesday night when they bookended a decisive 6-1 victory over Nashville with three goals in the first 11 minutes of the first period and three more in the third period at Crypto.com Arena.
Center Quinton Byfield contributed two goals and an assist, doubling his career goal total. Forward Trevor Moore had a goal and an assist, center Anze Kopitar assisted on two goals by winger Adrian Kempe and winger Arthur Kaliyev added a game-winning, power-play goal. Trade-deadline acquisition Troy Stecher logged 17:38 on defense with three shots on goal. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves, his intermittent brilliance overshadowed by the offensive deluge.
Forward Philip Tomasino scored for Nashville, while David Rittich was touched up for five goals on 34 shots.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Division, Calgary, Edmonton and Vegas all lost, while the Kings pieced together a wire-to-wire win.
“Without explanation, it was [a 60-minute effort],” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Special teams were alert and everybody was important, all four lines contributed and all six D.”
The Kings scored twice in the 13th minute of the third period. First, Kopitar moved the puck to the safety of Kempe’s stick, which slid the puck across three quarters of the ice and into the empty net. Then Byfield intercepted a clearing attempt off the boards by Rittich and fired it back into his net for his fourth career goal.
“I think it helps quite a bit,” Byfield, 19, said of his first career multi-goal and multi-point game. “Just having that feeling that I know I can score … is definitely a confidence-booster for me.”
The Kings kept their feet on the gas throughout the final period. First, a Kempe breakaway created excitement. Later, with 14:01 left, forward Rasmus Kupari’s strength on the puck and finesse with a pass set up Byfield’s one-timer.
“Direct, straight lines, played with an edge, won a lot of races to the puck and then when he got there he won the battles. He played with authority and really asserted himself tonight,” McLellan said of Kupari before offering similar plaudits to Byfield.
Soon after Byfield’s first goal, defenseman Sean Durzi and Nashville forward Yakov Trenin fought in the Kings’ zone, a matchup that favored the more imposing Trenin.
Nashville had clawed within 3-1 with a goal 3:33 into the second period, the only scoring in the frame. After defenseman Roman Josi’s shot attempt was blocked, Tomasino tipped the loose puck into the air and then batted it downward into the net in a feat of hand-eye coordination.
The Kings had played 16 games over the past 30 days, having had more than one day between contests just once prior to the two-day break they had Sunday and Monday. Conversely, Nashville was completing a back-to-back set after defeating the Ducks, 6-3, on Monday.
That disparity manifested itself in the Kings’ superb start, in which they reeled off three goals in just over half a period.
Having already struck at even strength and on the power play, the Kings rounded out the variety pack with a short-handed goal at the 10:39 mark of the first period. Center Blake Lizotte, who signed a two-year contract extension on Monday, fended off two checkers and slipped the puck to a streaking Moore for a tap-in goal.
Though Moore lauded Lizotte’s contribution from breaking up the play defensively to rushing up the ice and ultimately serving him the goal on a platter, it was Moore taking home first-star honors on Tuesday. Naturally, he was accompanied by his signature identifier, “Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore” over the public address system.
“It’s great. I appreciate it, obviously, my family has good fun with it for sure,” Moore said.
The Kings had taken command early with a goal 3:26 into the game and a power-play marker 3:10 later.
First, forecheck pressure culminated in a takeaway by Kopitar, who fed Kempe for a snap shot from between the circles. It was Kempe’s team-leading 27th goal, but his first against a goalie in 13 games (he had one empty-net goal during that stretch and another for No. 28).
Then, as the Kings were about to be afforded a five-on-three opportunity, their younger power-play group shunned a quick touch in favor of some patient puck movement. It paid off when Kaliyev adjusted his shooting angle and let fly with a wrist shot from above the left faceoff circle that beat Rittich cleanly.
“The puck got to the right guy and he shot it. We’ve encouraged him to do that many, many times. It’s the best asset he has,” McLellan said of Kaliyev.
The 19-year-old Byfield, the second pick in the 2020 NHL draft, became the first Kings teenager with a multigoal game since Oscar Moller in 2008, and the first with a three-point game since Anze Kopitar in 2006. “When you’re chosen because of all your offensive skills as a young player, an 18-year-old, it’s hard to transfer those to the NHL. And while you’re doing that, what else can you provide? Some physicality,” McLellan said. “He was involved in piles, scrums, net front, faceoff circle. Much more of a physical attitude and, guess what? You score. So good for him.” … It was the sixth multigoal game of the season for Kempe. … The Kings host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.