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Kempe leads Kings into 1st place with 8-2 win over Flames

Los Angeles Kings right wing Viktor Arvidsson, second from left, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames, Monday, March 20, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Drew Doughty and Viktor Arvidsson scored in Los Angeles' four-goal first period, Adrian Kempe had two goals and an assist, and the Kings cruised into a first-place tie in the Pacific Division with an 8-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday night.

Carl Grundstrom had two goals and Gabriel Vilardi and Mikey Anderson also scored for the Kings, who pulled even with Vegas atop the division by extending their points streak to 10 games (8-0-2) with their second eight-goal outburst of the season. The Kings have earned a point in every game in March, putting themselves in contention for just the second division title for a franchise with two Stanley Cup championships.

“They played a hell of a game,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said of his team. “I thought our puck pressure and our tenacity was at its best, both when we had the puck and when we didn’t. It allowed us to create turnovers and take advantage of them.”

Pheonix Copley made 15 saves for Los Angeles, while captain Anze Kopitar, Quinton Byfield and Rasmus Kupari had two assists apiece.

“We got the lead early and then we didn’t look back from there,” Byfield said. “We came out, played our game right at the start. We took the lead and just kept playing the right way. The goals just kept coming for us tonight.”

Tyler Toffoli scored against his former team for the Flames, who couldn’t catch up after allowing four goals in a first period for the first time since November 2017. Coach Darryl Sutter’s teams hadn’t allowed four goals in a first period since October 2014, when he was still behind the Kings’ bench.

“The game plan, you’re down 4-nothing, pretty much got to flush it and start again, right?" Sutter said. "No other way around it. Scored the power play goal to start the second, but 5-on-5, I think they dominated us.”

Jacob Markstrom stopped 20 shots and gave up six goals in the first two periods of his 10th consecutive start before Dan Vladar mopped up in the third for the Flames. Markstrom also allowed six goals in Calgary's overtime loss to Dallas two days earlier to begin the team’s worst two-game defensive stretch of the season.

Calgary defenseman Rasmus Andersson called it “a brutal game.”

“Our D-zone was not good enough,” Andersson added. "We were not good enough with the puck. We didn’t get through the neutral zone. We didn’t have any, really, forecheck. It felt like they broke the puck out. And, I mean, I was terrible tonight, and I've got to be better. Everyone’s got to step up tomorrow, but I have to play a lot better.”

Noah Hanifin also scored for the Flames, who have lost four of six to hurt their playoff hopes.

The Kings were prolific offensively even with top scorer Kevin Fiala missing his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury.

Grundstrom put Los Angeles ahead early when he skated around Markstrom and scored a goal in his third consecutive game. Doughty then scored his third goal in four games on a long shot through traffic, and Vilardi scored 57 seconds later.

Arvidsson added a power-play goal off a cross-ice pass from Kempe to secure his fifth career 20-goal season, including both of his years with Los Angeles.

Toffoli drove home his 29th goal from the slot on a power play 34 seconds into the second. The goal was Toffoli's third in seven career games against the Kings, who drafted him in 2010 and won a Stanley Cup with him in 2014 before trading him in 2020.

But Kempe scored two goals in 4 1/2 minutes, giving him 34 this season. Anderson scored his first career power-play goal in the third.

Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. The veteran Calgary forward who played one season for the Kings has scored just one goal in his last 27 games since Jan. 10.


Flames: At Anaheim on Tuesday.

Kings: Host Winnipeg on Saturday.


AP NHL: and

Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

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