One of the more interesting storylines heading into the LA Kings game two matchup with the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night was the lack of lineup changes after falling 4-2 on Saturday. No changes meant Olli Maatta and Austin Wagner had consecutive nights off, with the former still looking to find his footing in Los Angeles.
[Todd] McLellan noted in Saturday’s postgame press conference that he was looking for an “explosive start” similar to how the team was playing at the end of the 19-20 season. Including Sunday’s game, the LA Kings trailed 1-0 in every game this season. Certainly, the team started off on a much better note, outshooting the Blues by a sizeable margin, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the scoreboard.
The Kings would get two late first-period goals, taking a lead into the locker room at the end of the first for the first time on the young season. And they came out on fire in the middle period, putting up a three-spot, extending the LA Kings lead to a 5-1 score. Los Angeles took their foot off the gas in the third period, though, as the Blues scored two goals in a 48-second span.
Here were the three outstanding players in the victory.
1. Adrian Kempe
Drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, this season was more or less a make or break year for Adrian Kempe. Would he be part of the next great LA Kings was something the 2021 season would have a say in. And he’s played like a man on a mission. A much-more decisive shot, Kempe is playing with a lot of confidence right now, scoring in his last three games. Initially, it looked like the Kings’ fourth goal of the night was Kempe’s, but a re-direction later credited the goal to Anze Kopitar – the captain’s first of the year.
2. Kale Clague
Kale Clague played in the season opener, and frankly, he looked lost. McLellan sat him for game two, but the 22-year-old has looked better and more confident in each game. Known for his offense, Clague has been paired with Matt Roy since Mikey Anderson was promoted to the team’s top pairing with Drew Doughty. Clague opened the game with a strong two minutes of play, showing some nifty puck-moving ability, and a couple of good shots on net. He also logged his first career NHL point – a secondary assist on Kopitar’s goal. Clague was part of a Kings’ defensive group that held the Blues without a shot on goal for 14:26.
3. Lias Andersson
Lias Andersson‘s goal in the second period effectively put this game out of reach, despite the Blues’ best attempt at a comeback. The 22-year-old centerman finished serving a two-minute minor, came out of the box, and received a stretch pass from Anze Kopitar. With a couple of nifty moves and putback attempts, Lias Andersson logged his first goal as a member of the LA Kings. He made his debut on the team’s fourth line but has played well alongside Gabe Vilardi and Dustin Brown on the third line.
“Yeah, it was a cool moment,” Andersson told Fox Sports West after the game. “Kopi, obviously, a guy I grew up watching and an incredible hockey player and one of the best that ever played the game, so my first Kings’ goal assisted from him is huge.”
With the victory, Jonathan Quick is 7-0-3 in his last ten starts, dating back to February 15, 2020. He had some mask issues on the Blues’ third goal, trying to signal the referee before St. Louis scored. Quick wasn’t too happy after the play. He stopped 22-of-25 shots on net.