Kovalchuk scores twice as Kings beat Golden Knights 5-2
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights both accomplished their goals during their regular-season finale on Saturday night.
The Kings — who will the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in three seasons — closed a dreadful season with a 5-2 victory over the playoff-bound Golden Knights, who left Staples Center without any injuries.
Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals and Dustin Brown had two assists for Los Angeles, which finished last in the Western Conference with 71 points and had the second-fewest points in the NHL. The Kings will have three of the first 35 picks in the draft and have a 13.5% chance of landing the top overall pick when the draft lottery is held on Wednesday in Toronto.
“It’s certainly not the season that we wanted, expected, all of the above,” said Anze Kopitar, who had a goal and an assist. “It was nice ot end it on a good note, but we can’t forget obviously.”
Jeff Carter and Matt Roy also had goals while Jonathan Quick made 29 saves. The Kings closed the season with wins in six of their last 11 games.
Willie Desjardins, who served as Los Angeles’ interim coach after John Stevens was fired 13 games into the season, did not comment about his coaching future. The Kings were 27-34-8 under Desjardins.
“I’m going to enjoy the win and worry about that in coming weeks,” he said.
The Golden Knights are the seventh team in NHL history to make the playoffs in each of its first two seasons. They finished third in the Pacific Division and will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs at San Jose.
“It was sort of a meaningless game points wise but you have to play the best you can,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “We didn’t play great tonight. We played OK. I’m happy it’s over with and now we can get ready for the playoffs.”
Brandon Pirri and Valentin Zykov scored for Vegas while Mark-Andre Fleury made 27 saves.
Kovalchuk opened the scoring when he stripped the puck from Zykov in the neutral zone and skated up the left side of the ice before beating Fleury on his glove side at 12:14 of the first. It was Kovalchuk’s first goal since March 2.
Carter extended the lead with five minutes remaining in the first when he was able to cash in on a rebound of his own shot for his 13th. Fleury made pad saves on the first two attempts before Carter got his third goal this season against the Golden Knights.
Roy got his second of the season at 10:35 of the second with a shot that went in off the crossbar after taking a pass from Brown.
Vegas then scored two goals less than three minutes apart. The Golden Knights got on the board 16 seconds after Roy’s goal when Pirri got a loose puck near the right faceoff circle and fired a slap shot past Quick for his 12th
Zykov got the Golden Knights with his second of the season at 13:09 when he put in the net on a perfect pass from Jimmy Schuldt, who was playing in his first NHL game. Quick came out too far in front of the net, which left Zykov open.
Kopitar provided some breathing room 8:52 into the third with a power-play goal. Kopitar tapped in the loose puck for his 22nd after a mad scramble in the crease. Kovalchuk added an empty-netter with 55 seconds remaining for his 16th.
NOTES: Vegas D Nate Schmidt, D Shea Theodore, RW Reilly Smith and RW Mark Stone were all healthy scratches as the Golden Knights get set for the playoffs. ... The five goals prevented Los Angeles from having the fewest goals in the NHL this season. They finished with 202, two more than Anaheim. It was the fifth-fewest goals the Kings have scored in an 82-game season. ... Kopitar, who played in his 1,000th NHL game last Monday, was honored before the game. ... Los Angeles C Blake Lizotte, who was a teammate of Schuldt’s at St. Cloud State, also made his NHL debut. Both signed their entry-level contracts earlier in the week.
Golden Knights: Will face San Jose in the first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kings: Season complete.
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