Kings take care of Sharks in road win

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles improved to 7-0-1 in their last 8 games against San Jose as they secured victories on back-to-back nights.

The Kings moved one step closer to clinching a playoff berth Thursday night, defeating the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose.

The opening period was scoreless until Los Angeles forward Adrian Kempe broke through at the 10:55 mark. Less than a minute later, Akil Thomas scored the  first goal of his NHL career for a 2-0 lead.

In the second period, both goalies worked effectively and neither squad was able to provide any offense, combining for nine shots on goal.

Kings goalie David Rittich continued to impress, stopping 16 shots.  However, he allowed a goal by Sharks forward Klim Kostin with two minutes remaining.

Here are three takeaways:

Thomas scores first goal

After being promoted from AHL Ontario on Sunday, the 24-year-old Thomas was given his first crack at the NHL. He debuted the 4-3 loss to the Jets on April 1, when he provided a limited impact in his small amount of time on the ice.

On Thursday night, he was given a bigger role and made the most of it. Thomas rocketed a second-period shot past Shark goalie MacKenzie Blackwood and extended the Kings’ lead to 2-0.

Before his call-up, he scored 22 goals in 61 AHL games this season and earned himself the opportunity to join the big-league team. He becomes the sixth Kings skater this season to score their first career goal, making it the 12th season in franchise history where six or more players have recorded their first NHL score.

The second-round pick in the 2018 draft has a bright future. The Toronto native already has played in four international tournaments for Team Canada.

Rittich stops 15 shots

Although the San Jose Sharks have a league-worst average of 25.40 shots per game this season, Kings goalie David Rittich did not complain. He kept the Sharks off the board until surrendering a late score. 

While Rittich did not come away with a shutout, he did save 15 of 16 shots on the way to his 12th win of the season.

Rittich makes an impressive save on a shot from Filip Zadina.

Rittich is 12-6-3 this season and made his first start of April. Like fellow goalie Cam Talbot, Rittich is in the middle of his first year with the Kings.

The last time he tallied 12 or more wins in a season was in 2019-2020, when he had a 24-17-0 record for Calgary.

Thursday’s game a nice bounce-back effort after a tough 4-2 loss against the Flames in his previous appearance March 30.

Dubois ties Kings record

Coming off of a three-assist performance in the Kings’ win over Seattle on Wednesday, Pierre-Luc Dubois kept his passing magic alive. He made his 24th assist on Thomas’ goal.

Dubois has been especially helpful to Kings’ skaters this season who have scored the first goals of their careers. Dubois has now contributed to three different first-career goals this season.

This ties the franchise record for most such assists in a single season. Alex Laferriere, Andreas Englund and Akil Thomas can all thank Dubois for his contributions to their big career milestones.

With 6 games left in the regular season, Dubois will need six more assists to record his third consecutive campaign with 30 or more. He has the eighth-most points on the team with 39.

Stretch run ahead

The Kings get a day off before hosting the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m. Saturday, the last team they face that is in a playoff position. The Canucks hold first place in the Pacific Division with 102 points.

LA holds a seven-point lead over the Blues for the final wild-card spot with six games to go. Additionally, the Kings have pulled within one point of the Vegas Golden Knights for third place in the division.