LOS ANGELES — Down a goal? No problem for the Los Angeles Kings in their 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
After a first period that left much to desired, the Kings piled in five goals, led by the two-goal effort of Adrian Kempe and a solid performance from goaltender David Rittich.
Rittich made his second start of the 2023-24 season. He only allowed one goal in his previous outing (which happened to be versus the Sharks) and did the same on Wednesday.
The Sharks scored the game’s first goal on a breakaway after Kevin Fiala lost the puck. There was not much Rittich could do as he faced a one-on-one against Fabian Zetterlund. Fiala was benched for a portion of the first period due to the error, but after that, it was all Kings.
The Kings tied the game with a breakaway goal early in the second period after Kevin Fiala strung together a series of fakes to best Sharks goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen. 1-1. Fiala redeemed his earlier error, providing the team a spark in the second period.
“Good response, but we shouldn’t be put in that situation where we have to do that,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We’ve talked about it. Those players have to play with risk in their game, we understand that, especially a creative guy like Kevin. But it’s happening a little too often, and water under the bridge now. We all learned. I think he, for not having played a few shifts, he actually woke our team up, which sometimes it works in our favor, too.”
Seconds later, Trevor Lewis stole the puck in the offensive zone and backhanded a shot into the Sharks’s goal, making the score 2-1. Crypto.com Arena was buzzing with excitement from the back-to-back goals to take the lead.
The momentum carried into later in the second period when Pierre Luc-Dubois rebounded a shot from Arthur Kaliyev and scored, giving the Kings a 3-1 lead.
Early in the third period, Kempe found the back of the net after tipping Matt Roy’s shot. 4-1, Kings.
Kempe scored again later in the third period after using quick pace and physicality to skate past a few Sharks and found the five-hole, making the score 5-1.
Rittich made 24 saves on 25 shots. McLellan was pleased with his showing in his first two starts, saying they expected such performances from him.
“It’s expected,” McLellan said. “He’s a veteran NHL goaltender that had a real good training camp, and he’s played on good teams this for us. This isn’t a surprise.”
The consecutive goals gave the Kings momentum, and they did not look back. They were also lifted by their second-in-the-NHL penalty kill (by %), which was on display on Wednesday. They killed all three of the Sharks’s power plays.
Such efforts helped them improve their point total to 44 ahead of a key matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. The Kings trail the Golden Knights by three points for second in the Pacific Division.