LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Vegas Golden Knights have managed to stay on top out West in spite of injuries and uncertainty.
As they reached the halfway point of an already-eventful season, a false positive test for COVID-19 by forward William Karlsson earlier in the day gave them just another bit of adversity to overcome.
Karlsson had the winning goal, Max Pacioretty scored twice and the Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Friday night.
”This team takes every night seriously and every period seriously,” Pacioretty said. ”If we have a bad one, someone always kind of speaks up and lets everyone know. There’s no room for this club to sleep for a period, for two periods or for a game.”
Karlsson put Vegas back in front 3-2 with 4:45 left in the second period by tipping Jonathan Marchessault’s shot from the point. Karlsson had multiple negative tests in the afternoon that cleared him to play, but coach Pete DeBoer still had to prepare multiple contingencies in the event he and other players might be unavailable.
”It’s a stressful day, both for him waiting to see if it’s a real positive or a false and all the close contacts that have been around him because it affects everybody,” DeBoer said.
Robin Lehner made 23 saves as the Golden Knights won their fifth straight. It was the first start for Lehner since Feb. 7 because of a concussion.
Jonathan Quick made 29 saves, and the Kings have dropped three of four.
Pacioretty got his third and fourth goals during a five-game point streak to spot the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead after the first. He buried a one-timer from the slot at 10:17 off a centering pass by Mark Stone
Pacioretty’s second goal, his 16th of the season, wasn’t quite as clear cut. A lengthy video review by the league’s situation room was required to determine the puck crossed the line while in Quick’s glove off Pacioretty’s backhand at 12:53.
By the time William Carrier scored his first of the season to make it 4-2, deflecting Nicolas Hague’s shot at 10:34 of the third, Kings coach Todd McLellan had already seen too much ”loose” and ”sloppy” play in the critical defensive areas by his team.
”We were very poor in about 40 square feet of ice in front of our net, whether it was tip-ins, defections, pass outs from below the goal line,” McLellan said.
The Kings pulled back a goal with 17.2 seconds left in the first when a charging Alex Iafallo chipped in the rebound of Anze Kopitar’s shot to make it 2-1.
Trevor Moore tied it up 2-all for the Kings at 6:18 of the second, redirecting Matt Roy’s shot from the blue line in.
”We take a punch or two to the face and then we get ourselves off the mat, we continue to battle. And now that’s in our game, that’s in our DNA. That’s a moral victory. I think we’re a better team than we played tonight. I think we showed ’em a little too much respect and disrespected what we’re capable of doing,” McLellan said.
Lehner was tested early by 12 shots in the first period, but the Golden Knights lightened the load for him by limiting the Kings to 13 shots the rest of the way.
”It’s not easy to come back after such a long time off, and he kind of picked up and fit in right away, which is nice to see,” Pacioretty said.
Pacioretty has nine points in his past five games. Stone has four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak, in addition to a point in each of the last 10 games he has appeared in after missing the March 8 game against Minnesota. Defenseman Shea Theodore extended his run of games with a point to six by notching the primary assist on Pacioretty’s second goal.
Karlsson became the second player in the Golden Knights’ brief history to reach 200 points, getting there in his 255th game. Marchessault leads the franchise with 202 points, but Karlsson leads his line mate in all-time goals with 89.
The Golden Knights and Kings will play again in Los Angeles on Sunday.
This story will be updated throughout the game
PRE GAME: Knights forward William Karlsson is back in the lineup after he was placed on COVID protocol earlier in the day. The test was a “false positive.” Robin Lehner in net for the Knights after sitting out a month with a concussion.
FIRST PERIOD: Knights Max Pacioretty (15) with a wrist shot, Mark Stone (25) the assist. KNIGHTS 1, KINGS 0 midway through period.
Knights Max Pacioretty (16) scores his second goal of the game after a lengthy review. Assists to Shea Theodore (18), Alec Martinez (12). KNIGHTS 2, KINGS 0 with 5 mins left in period
Kings Alex Iafallo (7) scores late in the period. Assists Anze Kopitar (27), Drew Doughty (18). KNIGHTS 2, KINGS 1 after one period. Shots on goal: Kings 12, Knights 11.
SECOND PERIOD: Kings Trevor Moore (4) tips in a shot to tie the game at 2. KNIGHTS 2, KINGS 2.
William Karlsson (7) scores for the Knights, assists to Jonathan Marchessault (13), Alec Martinex (13). KNIGHTS 3, KINGS 2 after two periods. Shots on goal: KNIGHTS 27, SHARKS 16.
THIRD PERIOD: William Carrier (1) scores for the Knights. KNIGHTS 4, KINGS 2, final.
Shots on goal: Knights 33, Kings 25.
Vegas Golden Knights (20-6-1, first in the West Division) vs. Los Angeles Kings (12-10-6, fifth in the West Division)
Los Angeles; Friday, 7 p.m. PDT
BOTTOM LINE: Mark Stone leads Vegas into a matchup against Los Angeles. He ranks eighth in the league with 34 points, scoring 10 goals and recording 24 assists.
The Kings are 12-10-6 against the rest of their division. Los Angeles has surrendered 13 power-play goals, killing 84% of opponent chances.
The Golden Knights are 20-6-1 against the rest of their division. Vegas has scored 90 goals and ranks seventh in the Nhl averaging 3.3 goals per game. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 14.
In their last matchup on Feb. 7, Vegas won 4-3. Chandler Stephenson recorded a team-high 2 points for the Golden Knights.
TOP PERFORMERS: Dustin Brown leads the Kings with 13 goals and has 19 points. Adrian Kempe has seven goals and two assists over the last 10 games for Los Angeles.
Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights with 14 goals and has 28 points. Stone has six goals and 11 assists over the last 10 games for Vegas.
LAST 10 GAMES: Kings: 3-4-3, averaging 2.7 goals, 4.5 assists, 2.5 penalties and 5.6 penalty minutes while giving up 2.8 goals per game with a .908 save percentage.
Golden Knights: 8-2-0, averaging 3.9 goals, 6.5 assists, three penalties and 7.2 penalty minutes while giving up 2.4 goals per game with a .916 save percentage.
INJURIES: Kings: Jaret Anderson-Dolan: out (upper body), Dustin Brown: day to day (upper body).
Golden Knights: Alex Pietrangelo: out (undisclosed), Chandler Stephenson: day to day (undisclosed), Alex Tuch: day to day (undisclosed).