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Kings look to stay on hot streak against inconsistent Devils

Feb 29, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Los Angeles Kings forward Quinton Byfield (55) and goalie Cam Talbot (39) celebrate thier victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Kings won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Kings are occupying a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the New Jersey Devils may be in danger of slipping further away in the Eastern Conference’s wild-card race.

Coming off one of its best wins in 11 games under new coach Jim Hiller, Los Angeles hopes to keep piling up points Sunday afternoon when it hosts the inconsistent Devils.

Los Angeles is 7-4-0 since Hiller took over on an interim basis for the fired Todd McLellan on Feb. 2. The Kings made the change following a 3-8-6 slide that included an eight-game losing streak and occurred after they began the season 20-7-4.

Under Hiller, the Kings have notched wins over some of the league’s best teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. The Kings entered the weekend tied with Nashville at 70 points for the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference, two points behind Edmonton.

On Thursday, Los Angeles stopped its first losing streak under Hiller by scoring three goals in the third period of a 5-1 victory at Vancouver.

Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar scored the first two goals before Kevin Fiala, Brandt Clarke and Trevor Moore tallied in the third. Doughty notched his first three-point game of the season and third multi-point game since the coaching change while Kopitar had a multi-point game for the first time since Jan. 13.

“We played great right from the puck drop,” said Doughty, who notched his 500th career assist Thursday. “I was so proud and so happy with our team’s performance tonight. Every single player played well. There wasn’t one dog out there and that’s why we won.”

Fiala also scored for the second straight game and has five goals in his past six games while Moore scored for the second time since Hiller took over.

One of the wins since Hiller took over was a 2-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 15 when Kopitar scored a short-handed goal and Quinton Byfield scored the tie-breaking goal on a power play in the third.

The Devils are 3-4-0 in seven games since their last meeting with the Kings and began the weekend six points back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild-card spot, though they are competing with four other teams.

New Jersey’s run of losses includes a defeat Friday in Anaheim when Jack Hughes was stopped on a penalty shot with 2 seconds left in a 4-3 loss to the Ducks.

After dominating the third period of their 7-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Devils never led in the loss to the Ducks despite producing 55 shots on goal for the second-highest total in franchise history. Goaltender Nico Daws started and allowed four goals on 14 shots before being replaced by Akira Schmid in the third period.

“We had tons of chances but just gave up too much again,” Devils captain Nico Hischier said. “We should win that game 3-1, 3-2.”

Timo Meier scored in the first period while Hughes and Tyler Toffoli scored power-play goals after New Jersey fell behind by two goals.

“We’ve got to take it in our game that we’re fighting for our lives,” Meier said. “We’ve got to go into every battle wanting to win it.”

–Field Level Media

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