The Florida Panthers fell behind early and ended up dropping a 4-3 decision to the Los Angeles Kings in the first game of an important five-game homestand.
Anze Kopitar opened the scoring at 13:25 by drifting into prime real estate in the slot, a stride ahead of Sam Reinhart, to finish off a sweet backhand pass from Quinton Byfield. Adrian Kempe got the secondary assist by outworking Anton Lundell and getting the puck down low to Byfield.
The Kings added on 4:33 later with some “help” from Reinhart again. With the Cats up a man, Reinhart’s ill-advised drop found Blake Lizotte, and he broke out the other way 2-on-1 with Kempe. Lizotte got his pass through Brandon Montour to Kempe, who flung it by Alex Lyon for the first of two shorthanded goals.
Florida would dominate much of the final two periods, but it was Los Angeles’ second shorty, which came one second after Aaron Ekblad left the penalty box to make a 4-on-4 situation a 5-on-4, that would prove too much to overcome.
Like Reinhart, Lundell blundered again by failing to get the puck out of the Florida zone after collecting the rebound following a Lyon save. Phillip Danault dispossessed Lundell of the puck and crossed to Mikey Anderson, who went back across the grain to Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson slipped behind Radko Gudas to direct the puck into the net at 9:58 of the second to give the Kings a three-goal lead.
The Panthers would outshoot Los Angeles 30-13 after Arvidsson’s marker and they finally got on the board at 13:23 when Ryan Lomberg potted a backhand after Eric Staal (of all people) got to the puck first after Pheonix Copley casually left it behind the net for his defense to come fetch. Staal centered to Nick Cousins, who was denied by Copley before Lomberg lit the lamp by going upstairs.
Lomberg takes advantage and gets the @FlaPanthers on the board!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) January 28, 2023
WATCH ➡️ https://t.co/8Qh7kVI1tY#NHL | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/UCm7PhNQhx
Montour would halve the deficit 2:56 later, first faking a shot before moving in and blasting the puck past Copley from the left circle. Matthew Tkachuk got the primary assist for collecting the puck behind the net, after Carter Verhaeghe moved it along, and curling back out to the right point before crossing to Montour.
Montour walks into an absolute hammer of a shot!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) January 28, 2023
Bally Sports+ is a new option for watching Panthers games. Learn more here ➡️ https://t.co/8va8dYUOxV#NHL | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/yz4b7RyNO3
Florida would test Copley 19 times in the third period. Unfortunately, by the time they got another one by him, the Kings had gone back up by two on Matt Roy’s unassisted empty-netter with 1:02 remaining after a turnover by Aleksander Barkov.
Verhaeghe scored, for the fourth game in row, from the right circle at 19:26 after receiving a beautiful pass from Tkachuk, who split two defenders at the blue line and worked his below the goal line from center ice after taking a feed from Barkov, to complete the scoring.
With the Panthers out of time a goal short, the Kings vaulted to the top of the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights. This one came down to special teams with the visitors striking twice shorthanded while the Cats went a miserable 0 for 5 on the power play. Puck management was also a costly problem as all four of Los Angeles’ goals could’ve easily been prevented with a tad more care and/or effort. Another frustrating defeat filled with self-inflicted wounds as the remaining runaway left to gain a playoff position continues to inexorably run out.
Baubles & Bits
- Journeyman Pheonix Copley made an NHL career-high 45 saves to backstop Los Angeles to victory. Copley is now an astounding 15-3 since coming up from the Ontario Reign and replacing Cal Peterson to stabilize the Kings goaltending.
- When he unleashed Thor’s hammer to notch his ninth goal, Brandon Montour set a new record by becoming the first defenseman in franchise history with an eight-game point streak.
- In addition to extending his goal-scoring streak to four games, Carter Verhaeghe now has points in seven straight games. Verhaeghe is up to 26 goals, which leads the team.
- Staying on point streaks, Aleksander Barkov extended his to ten games. Overall, Barkov played well, but I’m not quite sure what he was doing on that play that led to the Kings empty-netter. If that was an actual shot on goal it was a really weak one. If he was trying to push the puck on Copley to maybe force a faceoff, it was a bad decision that backfired.
- Anze Kopitar’s game-opening goal got him to 40 points for the 17th time in his career. Kopitar joins Alexander Ovechkin as the only active player to accomplish that.
- I’d tell you to hit our sister site Jewels From The Crown for more on the Kings season-series sweep, but it’s inactive. Check out Mayor’s Manor instead.