Laferriere debuts as Kings lose to Avalanche, 5-2

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
An action-packed season opener ended in a loss for the Los Angeles Kings.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings trailed 3-1 in the second period as efforts to rally back were primarily unsuccessful. Then, Alex Laferriere dropped his gloves and fought Colorado Avalanche’s Logan O’Connor, as the home crowd cheered him on.

“He [O’Connor] kind of dropped his gloves first and started swinging,” Laferriere said. “And I was like, ‘alright, guess I gotta drop mine too,’ and that was it.” 

Laferriere dropped O’Connor to the ice and fired up the Kings, who scored late in the second period after his fight; Quinton Byfield chased down a loose puck that Anze Kopitar aired at goal from center ice, making the game 3-2. 

“The fight itself was a scrum,” McLellan said. “We all got involved, took care of each other, and sometimes, in those situations, there is a pair that comes out of it swinging. And he [Laferriere] happened to be the one doing it. He handled himself very well. It did give us some energy.”

Despite Laferriere’s ignition, the Kings’ comeback efforts failed as the Avalanche scored two more goals in the third period, making the final score 5-2. Still, Laferriere’s efforts pleased head coach Todd McLellan. 

Laferriere made his debut for the Kings against the Avalanche. The former third-round pick in 2020 first played in the AHL with the Ontario Reign earlier in 2023, scoring one goal in four games. But on Wednesday, Laferriere looked far from a young player, according to McLellan. 

“I thought he [Laferriere] had a tremendous night,” McLellan said. “He looked like he played in the league for a long time. That is pretty exciting for our organization, for him… He had good instincts both offensively and defensively. Had zero hesitation about putting him on ice.”

With Viktor Arvidsson out due to injury for a “little while” (at least Saturday’s game), McLellan wants Laferriere to stay in the NHL. That is if the logistics work out.

“I am going to be pounding on someone’s desk tomorrow to say I really like the way Laf [Laferriere] has played,” McLellan said. “I do not think he should be going there [to the AHL]. We will figure out a way to keep him if the cap situation and everything else works. But he has earned the right to play again, in my opinion.” 

The Kings are restricted heavily by the salary cap because of their offseason moves. The one that headlined them: trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Winnipeg Jets sign-and-traded Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings for Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and a 2024 second-round draft pick during the offseason. The last time the Kings completed a sign-and-trade was in 2022 for Kevin Fiala, who scored 72 points in his first season with the team. 

Dubois signed an eight-year extension with the Kings after the Kings acquired him for $8.5 million a year, leaving them with little salary cap flexibility in the 2023-24 season. And after Arthur Kaliyev picked up a four-game (two regular season and two preseason) suspension in the preseason, the Kings had played one-man short against the Avalanche. 

The 25-year-old Dubois was part of the playing group as he made his Kings debut. He spent 20:28 minutes on the ice, shooting three shots and winning six-of-15 face-offs.

Another notable young player, Quinton Byfield, stood out on both ends of the ice. McLellan said it was “maybe his best game as a King.” 

“The other young player that I thought had a really good night, maybe his best game as a King, was 55 [Byfield],” Byfield said. “I thought he looked confident. Made great plays, not only offensively but defensively. Nice to see him score a goal for all the work he did.”

25-year-old Carl Grundstrom also contributed by scoring the first goal of the Kings’ season after a nifty play to create space in the center of the attacking zone. 

Wednesday featured the debut of Cam Talbot, who signed with the Kings in the offseason on a one-year contract; he last played for the Ottawa Senators.

Talbot was in goal, and the Kings allowed five goals (one from an empty net). Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen contributed to the first four Avalanche goals with two goals and two assists. 

The Kings fell and stayed behind due to a lack of offensive success on power plays. They failed to score on all five of their power plays. Anze Kopitar said he has to review the film, but too much passing could have contributed to their lack of power play success.

“We will look at the game and the video. Maybe just too much passing [on the powerplay],” Kopitar said.

“We could have done a better job of directing everything towards the net rather than trying to find the perfect play,” said Kopitar about the Kings in the offensive zone. 

The Kings’ penalty kill was not stellar either, similar to how it was in the 2022-23 season, where they ranked 24th in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 75.8%. They killed two of the three power plays they faced against the Avalanche.

The first game of the season was a difficult one for the Kings. But they will have another chance to grab two points when they face the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The salary cap problems may persist, but the Kings are learning to adapt daily.