Steven Stamkos had two goals and an assist, and Eric Cernak scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night in the first sporting event at Staples Center since Kobe Bryant's death.
The arena held a somber pregame ceremony honoring Bryant and the other eight victims of Sunday's helicopter crash. Bryant's two retired jersey numbers hang high on the walls of the building, which was the retired Los Angeles Lakers superstar's home for the final 17 years of his two-decade career.
Both teams played with stickers on their helmets with Bryant's two uniform numbers, No. 8 and No. 24, superimposed on a gold heart along with “Kobe” and “Gigi” for Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also perished in the crash. In addition, all the Kings' players showed up to Staples Center wearing Bryant's jersey, while the Lightning donned purple T-shirts featuring the same logo on the helmet stickers before the game.
After the Lightning rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second period, Cernak got his fourth goal of the season with a long, possibly deflected shot through traffic off passes from Stamkos and NHL MVP Nikita Kucherov, who both extended their scoring streaks to five games.
Tyler Johnson also scored, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves and Stamkos added an empty-net goal in the final second of the Lightning's first win in two games after their 10-day break.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty missed his first game since April 12, 2014, ending the longest consecutive games streak in franchise history. The star blueliner had played in 460 straight games, but an undisclosed injury prevented him from suiting up even after a lengthy break since the Kings' last game.
Tyler Toffoli and Alex Iafallo scored for Los Angeles. Jonathan Quick stopped 20 shots while the last-place Kings lost their fifth straight in their return from an 11-day gap between games.
Los Angeles has won one game in January while falling to the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Kings went ahead in the first period on the 13th goal by Toffoli, the subject of numerous trade rumors. Iafallo then scored early in the second when a sharp pass from Dustin Brown left him undefended for a clean shot.
Johnson answered 4 1/2 minutes later with his 12th goal off a 2-on-1 with Ondrej Palat. Stamkos added his 21st goal right after a power play expired, connecting on a one-timer immediately after the Kings blocked several shots on a frantic penalty-kill.
NOTES: Former Kings D Luke Schenn was a scratch for Tampa Bay. He hasn't played in a game for the Lightning since Dec. 31. ... Los Angeles D Derek Forbort also was scratched. He missed practice Monday with the same back injury that forced him to miss the first 43 games of the season. ... Doughty ranks second among NHL skaters in minutes played per game (26:03).
Lightning: Visit the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Kings: Visit the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.