The Royal Crumble: Penguins Crushed by Kings, 6-0
LOS ANGELES — Mike Sullivan wasn’t sure how Los Angeles would respond to the ceremony celebrating former captain Dustin Brown that delayed the start of the Kings’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Crypto.com Arena Saturday night.
Such events before a game, he said, are “emotional” and “can affect people different ways.”
Some teams, Sullivan noted, are energized by them, while others are distracted.
Ultimately, though, he concluded that “I would expect to get LA’s very best.”
He certainly got that from Kings right winger Adrian Kempe, who scored four goals in Los Angeles’ 6-0 victory.
Kings goalie Pheonix Copley made 25 saves to earn his first shutout of the season, and become the first goaltender to hold the Penguins without a goal in 2022-23.
In addition to Kempe’s rampage, the Kings were sound defensively and opportunistic on offense, while the Penguins (26-17-9) rarely were either and dropped into fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Washington.
Sullivan certainly didn’t, at least after a decent first period, get a satisfactory performance from his team, which effectively unraveled during the middle 20 minutes.
“I thought we had a real good first,” Sullivan said. “We came out with a lot of energy. We were trying to play quick. I thought we made good decisions, for the most part.”
One decision he made that he might be second-guessing was electing to start goalie Casey DeSmith for the second day in a row. DeSmith was pulled after stopping just 12 of 15 shots.
His replacement, Dustin Tokarski, didn’t exactly thrust himself into the Vezina Trophy conversation, either, allowing two goals on eight shots before the second intermission.
Sidney Crosby had his nine-game scoring streak snapped, and his evening ended prematurely after he was assessed a 10-minute misconduct for challenging Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson, who had sent him flying with a cross-check to the back. He then picked up a game misconduct from referee Garrett Rank.
“Anderson was going to the box and saying something to me, so he and I kind of exchanged words,” Crosby said. “Next thing I know, I was told I had a 10.”
The game misconduct — believed to be the first of Crosby’s career — followed quickly. Precisely what led to it remains a mystery.
“I don’t think Garrett had any interest in giving us an explanation,” Sullivan said.
Kris Letang, who sat out the Penguins’ 6-3 victory in Anaheim Friday night because of illness, rejoined the lineup and took his usual spot on the No. 1 pairing opposite Brian Dumoulin, as well as at the left point on the No. 1 power play.
Sullivan kept Mark Friedman, who had been pressed into service when Letang was unavailable against the Ducks, in the lineup, opting to sit Chad Ruhwedel.
The Penguins, who had controlled their victory in Anaheim from the earliest shifts, fell behind early against the Kings.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan got a goal at 2:28 of the opening period, when Alex Edler’s wrist shot from the left point caromed off him and past DeSmith.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a chance to pull even when Kempe was called for high-sticking Evgeni Malkin at 3:46, but were unable to capitalize on what proved to be the only man-advantage for either club during the opening 20 minutes.
Both teams played fairly structured, sound games for the balance of the period — Los Angeles had a modest 12-10 edge in shots at the first intermission — but Alex Iafallo pushed the Kings’ lead to 2-0 at 17:47, as he beat DeSmith from the left side.
“I thought we brought the right mindset (in the first),” Sullivan said. “I thought we brought the right energy. The intentions were there.”
But any hopes the Penguins had of building on that decent start disappeared quickly in the second, as Kempe scored twice in the first 5:18 to put the Kings up by four.
His first, at 1:58, prompted Sullivan to pull DeSmith.
His second, at 5:18, welcomed Tokarski to the game.
Kempe scored again during a power play at 14:27, flipping in a shot from the right side of the crease to complete his natural hat trick.
He nearly added No. 4 during a power play as the period was winding down, but his shot slammed off the right post. That one eventually came during a power play at 15:09 of the third to close out the scoring.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Sunday and will work out at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo Monday before traveling to San Jose for a game against the Sharks Tuesday.