The Colorado Avalanche have been crushing teams on the power play in the early stages of this season, but the Los Angeles Kings flipped the script on them on Thursday.
Los Angeles erased a two-goal deficit with two power-play goals in the second period to set up a 4-2 win over the Avalanche. It was the first win of the season for the Kings, as well as their first victory in 316 days.
Anze Kopitar had two assists for Los Angeles in the win, including a great no-look pass to Adrian Kempe that set up the game-winner. The pair of helpers gives Kopitar six on the season, tying him with Buffalo Sabres standout Jack Eichel for the NHL lead.
Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots for the victory in the net on his 35th birthday. The only pucks that got past Quick came via two fantastic plays by Nathan MacKinnon in the first period – including one that dumped two Kings defenders to their knees – that gave the Avs a 2-0 lead after one period.
But three penalties in the second – including two in the span of 39 seconds – let the Kings creep back in. A Drew Doughty rip from the top of the right circle got Los Angeles on the board with the two-man advantage, and Gabriel Vilardi tied it up with another power-play goal just 2:10 before the end of the second.
Colorado couldn’t find the net in the third. The Avs had plenty of chances and plenty of shots, but Quick had to make just four saves over the final 20 minutes to preserve the win.
The pair of goals in the second period are the only goals Colorado has given up in the middle stanza all season. Los Angeles also blocked 19 shots, and the Avalanche had another 21 shots that missed the net.
The Avalanche have scored first in all four of their games this season, and they’ve also scored a power-play goal in every game. They were 1-for-4 with the man advantage on Tuesday, with Nathan MacKinnon getting the power-play goal with 44 seconds left in the first. That gave him 58 for his career, passing Peter Forsberg to move into sixth place in team history in power-play tallies.
Miska Solid For Avs in Debut
All the talk before the game was about the debut of highly-touted 19-year-old Bowen Byram, but another debutant was impressive, despite the loss.
Hunter Miska made his first NHL start and held his own for much of the night. Miska stopped 26 shots in the loss, but all three of the goals from the Kings were pretty plays that would have been tough stops for any goalie.
Kempe’s winner came off a deflection of a no-look pass from Anze Kopitar with less than four minutes to play. Both power-play goals in the second were rips into the top right corner. Doughty’s was a blast from the top right circle, and Vilardi’s was a blistering wrister that caromed off the side of Miska’s helmet.
While it was Miska’s first NHL start, it was his second career appearance. In November of 2018, he played the bulk of the third period for the Arizona Coyotes in a 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. He stopped eight of the nine shots he faced in 18 minutes.
Byram had a decent debut in his own right, playing 11-plus minutes while looking like he belonged much of the night. He was popped by Kempe with a solid check on his first shift, and took an early holding penalty on Anze Kopitar, but settled in after that. He had one shot on goal, which during an inspired flurry by the Avalanche when Byram was paired with Cale Makar at the back.
The Avalanche (2-2-0) are midway through their four-game road trip in California. They take on the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and Sunday. Colorado was 1-1-1 against the Ducks last season. Anaheim is off to a sluggish start this season, sitting 1-2-1 with only six goals scored in four games.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.