LOS ANGELES –– On a day where the Kings’ top prospect won a gold medal, the parent club was busy with a big game of its own Thursday, falling to the NHL-pacing Boston Bruins 5-2 at Crypto.com Arena.
Earlier in the evening, host nation Canada defeated Czechia in overtime to capture gold at the World Junior Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Kings defenseman Brandt Clarke, loaned to Canada for the tournament, assisted on Arizona Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther’s first-period tally and also helped set up Guenther’s golden goal in overtime.
On NHL ice, center Phillip Danault and defenseman Sean Durzi potted goals. Pheonix Copley lost for the first time in his past eight decisions and stopped just 17 of 21 shots.
Leading scorer David Pastrnak bookended Boston’s scoring with their first goal and a late empty-netter. Potent pest Brad Marchand contributed a goal and an assist. Forward Trent Frederic scored twice on one shift during the third period to blow the game open. Boston’s No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy picked up two assists. Jeremy Swayman made 27 saves, but he and Copley also made history before the match even started, becoming the first two Alaskan goaltenders to face each other in an NHL game.
From Dec. 15 until Thursday, the Kings had outscored opponents 11-4 in the third period. But Boston flexed its muscle as the NHL’s leading team by record in the final 20 minutes Thursday with a pair of goals by Frederic in the span of 34 seconds, both coming off regroupings after failed rushes.
Frederic cushioned Boston’s advantage with a wraparound goal after Copley lost track of the puck altogether. Frederic’s ninth goal of the season signified a new career high.
With 9:24 remaining in the game, Boston had pulled ahead when Frederic tipped defenseman Brandon Carlo’s shot past Copley.
In a second period that featured three total goals, there was also the very nearest miss and a bit of fisticuffs. Winger Viktor Arvidsson’s slap shot appeared destined to bank off Swayman and into the net to break a 2-2 tie, but the puck stood on its side just as it was about to cross the goalline, stopping its momentum and allowing Swayman to control it. Before that, Brendan Lemieux squared off with Frederic. The two wingers had fought twice previously, most recently during the Bruins’ 7-0 stomping of the Kings last February.
The Bruins took their first lead 2:21 after scoring their first goal and the Kings knotted the score 2:21 after that.
The Kings made it a new game 11:08 into the middle frame. Initially countering with speed and then building an attack in the offensive zone, their salvo culminated with a blast by Durzi from above the left faceoff dot to level the score.
Boston assumed control briefly off a broken play with the man advantage following a Blake Lizotte penalty. McAvoy’s pass was disrupted by Adrian Kempe, but the puck came directly to Marchand, whose sharp-angle shot was placed perfectly in the top corner of the net.
The play restored normalcy to the special-teams battle. The Kings’ penalty kill, its Achilles heel this season, had its first game in 11 matches without allowing a power-play goal on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Boston’s typically lethal power play had converted at a meager 6.7 percent clip from Dec. 23 until Thursday.
At the 6:26 mark of the second period, Boston’s big three drew the Bruins even. McAvoy and Marchand drew four Kings to the wall, leaving the slot wide open for Pastrnak. Marchand hit him with a pass off the boards and his wrist shot from between the circles was true for his 26th goal of the season, pushing him back into the top five league-wide.
The first period was physical as the two sides dished out a combined 29 hits, with time and space both at a premium.
With under four minutes left in the first period, the Kings kick-started the scoring. They moved the puck from low to high and then back down low. Winger Alex Iafallo went to work from behind the net, skating to one post to slide a pass across the blue paint and through McAvoy to find Danault at the opposite post for a redirection goal. Danault has 10 points in his past nine contests.