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Kings look to complete season sweep of Sharks

Jan 7, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Kevin Fiala (22) celebrates with right wing Gabriel Vilardi (13) and center Blake Lizotte (46) after scoring his third goal of the game against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Prowess on the special teams and the lights-out play of forward Kevin Fiala have the Los Angeles Kings playing their best hockey of the season.

Following a 6-3 thumping of the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the Kings will host the San Jose Sharks in the final of three meetings between the Pacific Division foes Wednesday.

Against Connor McDavid and the Oilers, Los Angeles tallied on four of its seven man-advantage opportunities. When short-handed against the NHL’s top power-play unit, the Kings killed off all six of Edmonton’s chances.

That performance helped pave the way to the Kings’ ninth win in their past 12 games (9-2-1) and first regular-season victory over the Oilers on home ice since Nov. 21, 2019.

An 85-point producer last season for the Minnesota Wild (33 goals, 52 assists), the 26-year-old Fiala recorded his first multigoal game with the Kings and second career hat trick in Saturday’s 5-1 win at Vegas.

The left winger followed that up Tuesday with two goals and two assists — the helpers both going to Adrian Kempe on power-play markers — to move his point total to 46 (15 goals, 31 assists) in 44 matches.

Through Monday’s games, Fiala was tied with Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey for fifth in the NHL in dishing out primary assists.

“His engine is really good, he can play lots of minutes, he’s dangerous and he can play up and down the lineup,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan. “His game transfers with him wherever he goes. He can play with big players, small players, quick, crafty players, straight-line players. It’s rare to find a player like that.”

Top-line center Anze Kopitar had a historic outing and another is looming. He recorded his 1,100th career point and 600th at home by assisting on Fiala’s first power-play goal. Kopitar also has 199 career goals on home ice.

Having dropped the first two matchups, San Jose will be looking to break a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) against its down-state rival. The club lost 5-2 to them in Northern California on Nov. 25 then dropped a 3-2 decision in a shootout in Los Angeles on Dec. 17.

However, prior to a 3-0 loss on the road last March 17, the Sharks had won eight of nine (8-1-0) against the Kings dating back to March 22, 2021.

At Arizona on Tuesday in their first visit to the Coyotes’ temporary home at Arizona State, the Sharks got a strong start from goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, who made 27 saves and stood tall under pressure at the end in the Sharks’ 4-2 victory.

Right winger Kevin Labanc set the tone by scoring in the game’s first five minutes. His tally gave him 10 for the season, reaching double digits for the fifth time in his seven-year career.

“I think I just need to use my shot and use my instinct,” said Labanc of his scoring on the NBC Sports California broadcast during the first intermission. “Offensively, when I get in the zone and play with the puck a little bit, things start to open up for yourself. The more I do that, the more success I’ll have.”

Matt Nieto scored the game-winning goal nine seconds into the third, and Jaycob Megna scored his first goal in his 39th game this season for the final margin.

–Field Level Media