The Toronto Maple Leafs puffed their chests in the direction of the Kings for the second time in a month and once again the Kings had no answers. And to most in attendance, it seemed apparent that the Kings didn’t want to even be there.
In the first of a three-game California road trip, Toronto jumped on the listless Kings with two power play goals (Nazem Kadri and John Tavares) before the game was even seven minutes old. The Maple Leafs registered 11 shots before the LA Icemen notched their first. All of this without Auston Matthews, who sat out his seventh straight game with a shoulder injury, and holdout William Nylander.
“You definitely don’t want to spot two [power plays and subsequent goals] right off the start,” said Kings veteran Kyle Clifford. “We’ve obviously got to have a little more discipline amongst ourselves with penalties and playing a little smarter. It’s tough to win in this league when you’re giving up good power plays and some opportunities and get them feeling good playing in the game.”
Adrian Kempe gave the home team some hope scoring at 14:23 of the first, but then the Maple Leafs caught the Kings flat-footed in the second with goals from Morgan Rielly, Andreas Johnsson, and Kadri before eight minutes passed. Kings starter Peter Budaj was chased from the game after Johnsson’s goal. He was relieved by Cal Petersen with the rookie stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced in his NHL debut.
After Jack Campbell tore his knee meniscus this week, he joined Jonathan Quick on injured reserve leaving the Kings with their two AHL goalies to fill the spots.
”I was a little surprised to get put in the game,” Petersen said. “I didn’t hear the coach right away. It was an exciting moment, and I got to face a shot right away, which helped. I was just trying not to make it bigger than it is.”
On the night, Kadri scored two power-play goals while John Tavares had a goal and two assists as the Maple Leafs seemingly skated circles around the home team in their 5-1 victory. Toronto swept the two-game season series with NHL-worst Los Angeles by a combined 9-2.
“Tonight we dominated by being fast,” said Kadri. “I think that’s the identity of our team, and we wanted to use it to our advantage.”
Kings captain Anze Kopitar knows his squad is teetering on a wasted season: “I don’t think the offense was the problem today by any means. It was the lack of desperation, work, energy, emotion, whatever. That kind of effort is unacceptable. We’re running out of time here.”
Kings interim coach Willie Desjardins echoed Kopitar. “I didn’t see us get desperate until they got about their third or fourth goal, and then I saw us on the bench starting to get upset. You can’t get upset after four goals, because that’s too late. If you have that energy after the fourth goal, why don’t we have it right after the first goal, why didn’t you have it at the start of the game before any goals?”
NEXT: The Kings continue to look for the right spark as they hit the road on Friday to play the Chicago Blackhawks who haven’t won since October 25th vs. the New York Rangers (0-6-2 in that span).
GAME NOTES: Stars of the Game: First – Tavares, Second – Kadri, Third – Rielly… Frederik Andersen has a 0.75 GAA and a .977 save percentage during his four-game winning streak… Rielly leads all NHL defensemen with 23 points… Kempe scored just his second goal in his last 50 games. ... Kings D Dion Phaneuf had an assist against his former team for his first point in 17 games this season... The 24-year-old Petersen is the 71st Kings goalie in franchise history… Mitch Marner (two assists) needed stitches after an Alex Iafallo high stick in the second period… Toronto improved to 7-1 on the road this season… The Kings have lost three straight, scoring just two combined goals… Desjardins is 1-3-0 thus far in his Kings coaching career… Tavares scored a goal in his third consecutive game and now has 11 on the season.