LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings had a challenging task to start the season: face arguably two of the best teams in the NHL. After losing the first one to the Colorado Avalanche, the game against the Carolina Hurricanes was important to start the season on the right foot. However, the Kings slow start continued in a 6-5 penalty shootout loss against the Hurricanes.
The team felt they played well despite costly individual errors, putting them behind early. Kevin Fiala was one player who made multiple mistakes despite his three assists.
“I can’t use the words I’d like to use in the individual errors were very costly for the group as a whole, and those have to get cleaned up,” McLellan said.
The Kings’ power play is where most of the game action came. Anze Kopitar said it was “bittersweet,” as the team gave up two goals to the shorthanded Hurricanes but scored two power play goals themselves. Trevor Moore was the catalyst of the Kings group that drew eight penalties as he drew three of them.
“I would say that the shorthanded goals were more individual than group, or system or structure, unfortunately,” McLellan said. “But to score, to pull your goalie and get another one against Carolina, who’s notoriously very stingy with power play, penalty kill, situations. We’ll take that tonight.”
The Kings’ first power play goal came in the second period when Adrian Kempe found Kopitar, who was open on the backdoor, for a goal. The goal was their first power play goal of the year. The second power play goal happened later in the second period when Trevor Moore slapshotted a loose puck for a goal.
The Kings’ other goals came with both teams at full strength. The first goal came after Pierre Luc-Dubois gained entry well into the offensive zone, and moments later, Drew Doughty scored on a slap shot for Kings first goal. Kevin Fiala spotted Doughty across the ice, setting up the goal. The Kings’ fourth goal came when Blake Lizotte found Vladislav Gavrikov, who scored a goal as he fell to the ice. And the final goal came when Kopitar tied the game with less than 1:30 remaining by scoring on the power play.
Phoenix Copley started in goal after Cam Talbot started Wednesday’s game against the Avalanche. Head coach Todd McLellan said it was the plan for Copley to start against the Hurricanes, even if Talbot had a “60-save shutout.” Copley started 35 games in goal for the Kings during the 2022-23 season, and he received his first nod during the 2023-24 season in the second game.
Copley’s start in goal was not one to rave about, though. He gave up five goals on 19 shots. Arguably, his most difficult moment came on the Hurricanes’ third goal, where they scored from a tight angle as the puck bounced off Copley’s pads.
The Kings felt they had many positive moments despite the loss. One of them was that they did not give up a goal while shorthanded. They faced four power plays and stopped them all.
“I thought our penalty kill did a good job,” McLellan said. “There was some momentum gained off of doing a good job and killing it. We didn’t have to kill many. But if it gets away on us any further, we’re in trouble.”
Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Jordan Spence also made their season debuts against the Hurricanes. Spence assisted on Moore and Kopitar’s goal. With Viktor Arvidsson moving to long-term injured reserve (LTIR), McLellan is looking for other forwards to step up. He felt Anderson-Dolan did so on Saturday.
“I think there’s potential for this week coming up [for Arvidsson’s surgery],” McLellan said. “And he’ll have some surgery. It’ll be out for a long time. I can’t give you a date or anything like that. But he’s on LTIR, and that’s opened up some cap space and some roster opportunities for players that are anxious to get them. JAD [Jaret Anderson-Dolan] was one of them. He had a real good night to me.”
Also notable from Saturday’s game was that it was [Los Angeles] Chargers Night. Michael Davis did a ceremonial puck drop, and Asante Samuel Jr. banged the drum as the game puck dropped.
The Kings moved to 0-2 but gained one point after losing in the penalty shootout. Next, they play their first road game of the year against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday with a chance to build off the positives from Saturday and win.