Despite a string of injuries and absences, the Los Angeles Kings are on the cusp of wrapping up another trip to the postseason.
Pheonix Copley made 25 saves, Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom and Kevin Fiala scored, and the Kings created separation in the Pacific Division standings with a 3-1 win over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night.
Durzi scored at 11:45 of the second period thanks to a deflection that left an open goal, and Grundstrom stole the puck from Brandon Tanev and beat Martin Jones glove side with 14:38 remaining to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead.
Fiala added an empty net goal with 45 seconds left, his 23rd of the season.
“I didn’t think there was a lot of ice for either team. Both teams played a very tight, I don’t want to say conservative, but smart game. There wasn't space to make plays and if you had a chance to get it to the net, you’d better take advantage of it,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said. “Fortunately for us, we got the lead and there was only going to be one or two tonight.”
The victory by Los Angeles likely ended Seattle’s hopes of catching the Kings in the standings. Los Angeles moved eight points ahead of the Kraken with six games remaining while Seattle has a game in hand. The Kraken's path to the playoffs is likely one of the two wild cards in the Western Conference.
“It’s a real disappointing loss, but in saying that this group knows what it takes,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s there’s enough guys that have been in here. They know what it takes.”
Copley faced a limited number of dangerous chances with most of Seattle’s shots coming from well away from goal. But when he needed to make a big save, Copley was solid. He stuffed Eeli Tolvanen on a breakaway in the opening moments of the third period and later mater a sprawling glove save on Jordan Eberle during a delayed penalty against the Kings.
“We were working really hard in our (defensive) zone for the full 60 and I think that’s how we’re gonna have to win games here coming down the stretch,” Copley said. “They're gonna be tight games. They're gonna be hard fought battles. So I think that’s just kind of how we wanted to play defensively.”
Seattle ended up capitalizing on the penalty and ended Copley’s shutout hopes as Oliver Bjorkstrand scored on a rebound with 11:35 left, his 18th goal of the season. Copley came up with a key stop on Daniel Sprong with about 5 minutes left and withstood Seattle’s charge in the closing moments with an extra attacker leading to Fiala's clinching goal.
Fiala was one of those injury concerns for the Kings. He had missed seven of the previous nine games for Los Angeles due to injury, including Thursday's loss to Edmonton.
“He had a huge game for us tonight and it doesn’t affect him. He’s still making plays and still controlling the puck,” said Los Angeles' Alex Iafallo, who picked up his 200th career point assisting on Durzi's goal.
Seattle goaltender Martin Jones made 16 saves, but it was a completely different outcome than the last time the division foes met back in late November in Los Angeles when the Kraken escaped with a wild 9-8 victory.
NOTES: Los Angeles D Mikey Anderson was scratched after leaving Thursday’s game against Edmonton with an undisclosed injury after his first shift. ... Tanev skated in his 400th career game. ... Only two of Seattle’s seven remaining games come against a team currently in playoff position, both against Vegas. Los Angeles has three of its six remaining games against likely playoff teams.
Kings: At Vancouver on Sunday.
Kraken: Host Arizona on Monday. ___
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This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .
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