LOS ANGELES –– While the Dodgers played their first game of the playoffs, the Kings kicked off their regular season with a 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday at Crypto.com Arena, where a late-game blunder condemned them to start the campaign with a loss.
Wingers Gabe Vilardi, Adrian Kempe and Arthur Kaliyev scored goals for the Kings. An inundated Jonathan Quick stopped 47 of 51 shots on goal.
Winger Jonathan Marchessault and center Jack Eichel found the net for Vegas, while center William Karlsson notched a goal and an assist. Team captain Mark Stone netted the game-winner and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo had two assists. Logan Thompson stopped 27 of 30 bids.
A critical error in the final minute doomed the Kings. A failed stretch pass by defenseman Sean Durzi sent Vegas the other way in transition, allowing center Chandler Stephenson to find Stone for the game-winner with 25 seconds remaining.
The Kings had drawn even anew as some nifty puck movement on the power play set up what was technically an even-strength goal. Slick passes in tight by Vilardi and Trevor Moore opened up the right side for Kaliyev, who fired the puck past Thompson.
Earlier, winger Brett Howden had hit the post with a sharp-angle shot that would have given Vegas a 3-1 lead, breathing life into the Kings, who scored on the ensuing possession to knot the game at 2.
The Kings nearly scored again soon after, but winger Viktor Arvidsson, who returned ahead of schedule following back surgery, had his deflection denied by Thompson. In another turnabout, Arvidsson’s linemate Phillip Danault then took a penalty. Vegas converted on the resulting power play when defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s shot-pass was redirected home by Karlsson for a 3-2 lead.
Durzi dropped a pass for center Anze Kopitar in the left slot, which forced Vegas to sell out to that side, with both Thompson and his defenseman diving desperately. Kopitar circled behind the net and hit Kempe in front for a tap-in goal inside the right post.
Vegas had taken its first lead of the night, scoring for the second time in the first two minutes of a period and again within seconds of a Kings penalty kill. This time it was Eichel finishing with a follow-up after Quick made a save and Kopitar blocked a shot.
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The Kings headed to the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but it would evaporate 1:41 into the second stanza. After the Kings killed a penalty, a wide shot, a long rebound and a sloppy, hasty line change left Vegas with a three-on-one rush. Marchessault dished to long-time linemate Karlsson, who sent the puck back to Marchessault for an equalizer.
A near miss had nearly put the Kings on the board with an own goal off the skate of Zach Whitecloud early in the match.
Instead, the first goal of the season came from the third line, just past the midpoint of the first period. It was Vilardi, the Kings’ leading goal-scorer in the preseason, carrying his hot hand into the regular season. Center Quinton Byfield hit the net with a shot, collected his rebound and found Vilardi at the inside edge of the left circle for a rising wrist shot goal.