LOS ANGELES – The newest member of the Los Angeles Kings, Vincent Lecavalier, scored a point in his debut and the two-time Stanley Cup champions defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Los Angeles Kings hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final time this season in what should have been a relatively easy matchup for the Pacific Division leaders.
Not only are the Kings a better overall team than the Maple Leafs, but they were playing on three-days rest relative to Toronto who was playing on the second night of a back-to-back after defeating the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 on Wednesday.
To add more ammunition to the Kings arsenal, Toronto started their backup goalkeeper James Reimer after their usual starter, Jonathan Bernier, rested after recording a shutout the night prior. Even more incentive for the Kings was to avenge a 5-0 blowout loss to the MapleLeafs in Toronto three weeks ago.
Despite the odds heavily stacked in the Kings favor, the two teams were scoreless after two periods, with a sold-out crowd at Staples Center seemingly getting worried after every missed shot and save by goalkeeper Jonathan Quick.
Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak received a game misconduct penalty and was ejected with just 34 seconds remaining in the first period. Polak sent Kings forward Tyler Toffoli flying into the boards from behind on a downright dirty play.
"I thought it was a major penalty," LA Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said after the game. "Polak, he's a good player. At the same time, it's a hit from behind. To me it's not a big deal. It's a major penalty."
Just days after struggling in the Kings 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Jake Muzzin scored the game's first goal when his slapshot from the left hand side of the net sailed over Reimer's left shoulder for the goal.
Vincent Lecavalier was credited with the assist on the goal, his first point in his first game as a member of the LA Kings and first point in any action since Oct. 29, 2015 against the New Jersey Devils.
"Everything was kinda quick so I was running on adrenaline tonight," Lecavalier said of his debut. "I'll get a good sleep, start over tomorrow, and have a good practice."
Jeff Carter scored in his first game back when he slipped a shot past Reimer in front of the net. Carter received a great pass from Marian Gaborik who found the center alone in front of the net.
Minutes later, Peter Holland scored on the power play for the Maple Leafs and the Kings lead was cut to 2-1. Quick would bear down as Toronto pulled their goalie and played with an extra man during the final three minutes of play and LA hung on for the dramatic victory.
"They're such a good team," Holland said of the Kings. "They're big, they're fast, they're strong and also playing them at home adds another element. They found a way to win."
It won't show up in the stat sheet, but with just over a minute left in the second period, Drew Doughty went after Leo Komarov after he hit Doughty against the boards. Doughty received a two-minute penalty for roughing, but it energized the crowd and rejuvenated the Kings in the third period.
MVP OF THE GAME
Jonathan Quick. Despite allowing a late third period goal, the NHL All-Star goalie was stellar in net. Quick made 25 saves, including three sensational stops in the final two minutes to secure the victory.
"He stood on his head and made some unbelievable saves," said defenseman Luke Schenn after his first game playing in front of Quick. "He's great in those pressure situations. We've seen what he's done in the past and tonight was no different. It's nice to have a guy like that behind you for sure."
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Vincent Lecavalier became the first overall No. 1 pick to play for the Los Angeles Kings since Bill Harris was selected No. 1 overall in the first ever NHL Draft in 1972 by the New York Islanders played for the Kings in the 1979-1980. (Wayne Gretzky was selected in a merger and therefore never drafted).
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
LA Kings mascot "Bailey" blowing Maple Leafs fans with a leaf blower... classic.
PHOTO OF THE NIGHT
The new Co-Owner of the LAFC soccer club sported the team's hat complete with new logo and crest.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"It feels like the first day of school. It's exciting." – LA Kings center Vincent Lecavalier on his emotions before the game.
Jonathan Quick extended his winning streak to six games.
Jeff Carter returned to the lineup for the LA Kings. Carter missed the team's previous five games due to a wrist injury.
Center Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn made their LA Kings debut after being traded to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
New Co-owner of LAFC, Will Ferrell, was at the game, sporting his soccer team's new log and crest.
Toronto Maple Leafs (16-16-7, 39 points) 7th in the Atlantic Division
Los Angeles Kings (26-12-2, 54 points) 1st in the Pacific Division.
Toronto will continue their California road trip as they head north to San Jose to take on the Sharks in the Tank on Saturday.
The Kings are back on the ice on Saturday night to host the St. Louis Blues in a showdown of Western Conference powerhouses.