LOS ANGELES — The Kings were down two more players before the game even started and were trailing by three goals by the first intermission of a lackluster 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Already without wingers Arthur Kaliyev and Trevor Moore, another top flanker, Gabe Vilardi, missed Thursday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. One of his most likely replacements, Carl Grundstrom, was injured in practice Tuesday and could be sidelined well into February. Samuel Fagemo, one of three players recalled from the minors, dressed in Vilardi’s stead.
Another unplanned lineup change saw Jonathan Quick relieve starting goalie Pheonix Copley after Copley allowed four goals on 17 shots.
Forward Tyler Seguin had two goals and an assist to power Dallas, which moved into the Central Division lead with a Western Conference-best 61 points. Winger Jason Robertson and defenseman Esa Lindell also scored, with Robertson adding an assist. Top center Roope Hintz (upper body) missed his sixth consecutive game. Backup goalie Scott Wedgewood stopped 34 shots as he became the third goalie to shut out the Kings this season.
The Kings had a rare four-day layoff heading into the game, whereas the Stars squandered a three-goal lead Wednesday night in San Jose, where they ceded five unanswered goals to the Sharks. The Kings ended up winning the majority of faceoffs and had slight advantages in possession Thursday, but that was mostly thanks to the academic portion of the game.
“We didn’t take a century off, we took four days. Every team has a four-day break here and there. We didn’t perform well in the first period,” Coach Todd McLellan said.
“They had a three-goal lead in San Jose last night, there’s no way that team … was going to give up a three-goal lead in back-to-back-games,” he continued. “We self-inflicted our own misery early in the game and tried to find our game as the game wore on.”
Thursday’s third period brought the Kings no closer despite their out-shooting Dallas 14-2. Early on, Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen swiped the puck alertly off the goal line to deny Jaret Anderson-Dolan after a Kevin Fiala stuff attempt. Lindell later thwarted Fagemo on a similar bid. Otherwise, Wedgewood had answers for Viktor Arvidsson, Anze Kopitar and anyone else who tested him.
The Kings generated little in the way of offense in the second period, with perhaps their best chance coming on a shorthanded partial breakaway for Adrian Kempe.
In net, Copley did not make it halfway through the game before the Stars’ fourth goal sent him into exile.
Robertson beat defenseman Sean Durzi to the post on a wraparound attempt, and then popped the resultant rebound up and over Copley’s left shoulder. Robertson, who had a suite full of family members from Arcadia on hand, scored his 31st goal, which tied him for fourth in the NHL. His 24 even-strength goals rank second in the league. Robertson, whose mother was born in the Philippines, tallied on “Filipino Heritage Night” at the arena.
“It’s the first time playing here that we won, so you know, we’re not sour afterwards and it feels good,” Robertson said. “Our penalty kill was outstanding, Wedgie also.”
Copley lost for just the third time in 15 appearances as a King.
“Pheonix, obviously, has played well for us lately. It wasn’t his best night, maybe his poorest that he’s had with us,” McLellan said. “We thought about (pulling him) after the first period, but he hadn’t played in eight days, so we wanted to get him more time.”
Dallas had already extended its edge to 3-0 with two goals in 84 seconds between the 17:20 and 18:44 marks of the first period.
Team captain Jamie Benn made a strong play along the right-wing boards to draw two Kings before passing to Wyatt Johnson, who found an open Lindell trailing the play for a goal from above the left circle, his sixth of the season.
Before that, Seguin had struck again. After defenseman Drew Doughty disrupted a passing sequence, the puck came back to Seguin at the left faceoff dot, where he gathered and launched a precisely placed wrist shot for his 14th goal of the season.
“It was just a bounce here and there that we needed,” Kopitar said. “We didn’t quite earn it tonight. We definitely have to play better in order to win games.”
The Kings mustered just one shot on goal in nearly nine minutes to open the match and ceded a goal to the Stars just under seven minutes into it. Seguin’s quick shot from the slot caught Copley by surprise when it banked in off his blocker for the first of Seguin’s two goals.
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“He’s embracing the opportunity to come in and play, to fill the role, he’s enjoying it and I’m enjoying playing with him,” Robertson said of Seguin, who has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his six games plugging the hole left by the injured Hintz.
The Kings will now embark on their longest road trip of the season, playing six games away from home before rolling into the All-Star break. They won’t be back at Crypto.com Arena until Feb. 11 when they’ll raise Dustin Brown’s jersey number to the rafters.
“As they drive home tonight, they have to self-evaluate,” McLellan said. “‘How am I feeling? What did I get out of that game?’ We’re obviously going on the road and we’re going to need to perform at a higher level than we did tonight.”
Quick stopped seven shots in 33 minutes after replacing Copley. … Robertson has three goals and six points in three games against the Kings this season. … The Kings were 0 for 4 on the power play after scoring seven times in 18 opportunities this month. … The Kings’ three shutout losses have all been since Dec. 8.