LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings are a team desperately searching for answers. On Saturday, they may not have found many but managed to edge the New York Rangers, 2-1.
The Kings entered the game having lost ten of their previous 11 games, falling to the edges of the playoff race. With not much moving their way, they shuffled lines, trying Pierre Luc-Dubois on the first line as a winger, and Quinton Byfield moved to the third line at center.
The Byfield move resulted in a goal and impressive playmaking. However, Luc-Dubois’s performance was less spectacular.
“I thought he (Byfield) was tremendous,” said head coach McLellan.” I thought he was good in the faceoff circle. I thought he controlled and took charge of his line… His assignments down low in the D zone were excellent. Didn’t hamper him from creating offensively. So I thought it was a real good night for him.”
The Kings opened the game’s scoring late in the first period when Trevor Moore spun away from a defender and rifled a pass toward Kevin Fiala. Moments later, Fiala scored his 11th goal of the season, finding the back of an open net.
The Rangers tied the game up late in the second period despite just nine shots to that point. But then, the Kings regained the lead when Quinton Byfield rebounded Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s shot to score.
The Kings improved their season point total to 52, one behind an Edmonton Oilers team that has won 13 straight games.
Goaltender David Rittich started his second straight game, making his sixth start of the season. He made a few clutch saves down the stretch to preserve the Kings’s one-goal lead.
The save was reminiscent of the goaltender between the opposite goalposts, Jonathan Quick, who returned to Los Angeles for the first time not playing for the Kings. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was welcomed back with a standing ovation during the first period.
“It felt really strange because he’s (Quick) on the other team, but it was emotional for a lot of our guys and very deserving,” McLellan said. “We’re happy for Quickie and his family, and he deserved it. He deserved an extra five minutes; it’s too bad we could not stop the clock.”
Rittich gave up one goal on 23 shots. Quick allowed two goals on 26 shots.
Next, the Kings play the San Jose Sharks on Monday with a chance to start a winning streak and regain long-lost momentum. McLellan said Rittich will start the game in goal.