SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown scored second-period goals and Jonathan Quick had 41 saves to help the Los Angeles Kings defeat the short-handed Florida Panthers 4-1 on Thursday night.
Olli Maatta scored for the first time in 75 games and Arthur Kaliyev added a third-period goal for the Kings, who improved to 3-0-1 in their last four games.
”We just have to keep building,” Brown said. ”We’ve had a very streaky team thus far this year. It’s important to find the momentum and keep the momentum going.”
Matt Kiersted scored his first NHL goal and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 of 31 shots for the Panthers, who played with only 16 skaters, instead of the usual 18, because of a virus outbreak and injuries. They expect to remain short-handed at least through their next game, Saturday at Minnesota.
”I think the process of the game was very positive,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said. ”The result was negative.”
The Panthers had to recall four players from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte earlier Thursday to fill the roster. Forwards Grigori Denisenko and Cole Schwindt, along with defensemen Kiersted and Chase Priskie were brought in for the game. Schwindt made his NHL debut and each of the call-ups were playing a third game in three nights.
”I tried to have a pregame nap when I got into Florida here this afternoon,” Schwindt said. ”There was no chance I was falling asleep.”
Florida was without seven players because of COVID-19 protocols, including defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Frank Vatrano. They were ruled out Thursday, a day after it became clear the Panthers were in the midst of a virus outbreak.
The Panthers said Wednesday that five other players – Sam Bennett, Radko Gudas, Ryan Lomberg, Brandon Montour and Carter Verhaeghe – along with an unidentified member of the team’s travel party were in protocols and also unavailable for the game against the Kings.
But the situation clearly worsened either later Wednesday or early Thursday, with a number of players not on the ice for the team’s morning skate.
”It’s about everybody staying safe and being healthy,” Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. ”It’s not easy seeing some guys go into protocol, but we have to play and have to be ready.”
It just wasn’t enough, and Florida went without getting a point for the third consecutive game – the first time such a slump has happened to the Panthers this season.
Kiersted opened the scoring at 14:56 of the first period. Huberdeau, from the right circle, centered a pass to the onrushing Kiersted, who took the puck and fired a backhander past Quick.
It was all Kings from there, and Quick was at the top of his game.
”A standard night of work for him this season – he has been outstanding,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. ”He’s a pretty deodorant for some of the mistakes that we make.”
Maatta tied it late in the first with his first goal since Feb. 4. 2020, at Minnesota. Kopitar put the Kings ahead to stay at 3:27 of the second with his ninth goal and his first in 14 games.
Brown got his fourth of the season at 12:58 of the second and Kaliyev closed the scoring at 7:02 of the third.
NOTES: To help accommodate all the roster shuffling and in part to keep Florida cap-compliant, goalie Spencer Knight – who gave up all eight goals in Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa – was loaned to Charlotte. … The Kings are 12-5-4 in their last 21 games, the 1-5-1 start to their season clearly behind them. … With Drew Doughty out, the Kings had forward Alex Iafallo serving as an assistant captain.
Kings: Visit Carolina on Saturday.
Panthers: Visit Minnesota on Saturday.
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