LA Kings Alex Iafallo

After starting the year 4-for-23 on the man advantage, the LA Kings scored three powerplay goals in Saturday’s win over the Canadiens.

Entering Saturday’s matinee game with the Montreal Canadiens, the LA Kings struggled mightily on the powerplay. Todd McLellan’s group was just 4-for-23 (17.4%) on the man advantage through the first seven games, including a stretch of 1 for their last 17 opportunities over the last five games.

On Thursday, the Winnipeg Jets defended the Kings’ powerplay so well that Los Angeles couldn’t get a shot off on either opportunity, which was exactly what the team wanted to reverse on Saturday.

“Getting more shots off,” forward Alex Iafallo said following the Kings’ 5-2 win. “I feel like we’ve been working on it in practice, and it hasn’t been going for us well here the last few games. But tonight, we wanted to focus on getting those shots through no matter where it was coming from. And sometimes, you know, when you shoot, you get it back right away, and you can bump it back up high and then get another shot. So that’s kind of what we were planning on and wanted to work on.”

Iafallo tallied his second and third goals of the young season, including a powerplay goal in the third period. With just under six minutes remaining, Rasmus Kupari carried the puck through all three zones before dishing the puck off to Phillip Danault, who found a wide-open Iafallo in the high slot.

The 27-year-old Eden, New York native deked Canadiens’ netminder Jake Allen and buried the puck in the back of the net.

Iafallo’s goal was one of three powerplay goals on the day as Los Angeles went 3-for-5 on the man advantage. McLellan made a few adjustments to the first and second powerplay units on Friday, adding Rasmus Kupari and Kale Clague to the mix.

Gabe Vilardi wore a purple sweater in practice on Friday, making him a healthy scratch against Montreal on Saturday. While Vilardi being scratched eight games into the season isn’t exactly a comforting feeling, the Kings were desperate for some offense.

“Yeah, I mean, different players play different[ly],” Iafallo said of the powerplay units being switched up. “Sometimes they can make extra passes or– that’s just how it works. Sometimes, some units aren’t hot, and they switch around, and all of a sudden, [the puck] starts going in. So, it’s good, and it helped us win the game.”

Kupari scored his second goal in as many games. On Thursday, he opened the scoring for the Kings on a beautiful breakaway goal that displayed his speed and soft hands. As noted, the 21-year-old was added to the second powerplay unit in practice on Friday.

The Finnish forward extended the Kings lead to a two-goal advantage early in the third period against Montreal. On the play, Iafallo, Matt Roy, and Kupari fed the puck around the horn amongst each other before Kupari walked the puck in just above the right dot and fired a quick wrist shot past Allen.

“Yeah, it was an honor from the coaching staff, to get that role, on the second power-play unit,” Kupari said. “I was familiar with it, I played that role last year with the Reign for most of the year, so I pretty much knew what to do. Obviously, it’s a little bit of a different game here, but the roles are the same. It worked today and just keep it going and work on it a bit.”

Kupari is proving why he was worth a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. His combination of size and speed makes him one of the most underrated prospects in the Kings’ organization, with players like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, and Arthur Kaliyev garnering much of the national attention.

His offense has been a welcome contribution to the team, an offense that had scored two or fewer goals in five of the first seven games.

“It’s tough to say, I’m always happy to score,” Kupari said on which goal he was happier with, the shot tonight or the move on Thursday. “That was probably the shot of my life so far. I’m happy for that, but I can’t say which one was better, both of them felt really good.”

The Kings found themselves in a similar situation as Thursday. Leading by a 2-1 score and going into the third period, Los Angeles allowed Winnipeg to score two goals in the final frame in a penalty-filled period for the Kings.

However, McLellan’s group responded in a manner that proved they had learned from their mistake, extending their 2-1 lead to a 5-1 lead in the third period against the Canadiens.

“That’s what we talked about going into the third was making sure that doesn’t happen again,” Iafallo said. “Obviously, we got to learn from our mistakes, playing a third period. I think we did that tonight – good step forward.”

Kupari offered similar sentiments.

“It’s huge, we’ve been in these kinds of situations a few times, after two periods having a 2-1 lead and we’ve given up that,” he said.” It was huge for our confidence. Every guy did a really good job today, let’s keep it going and take all of the positives from today’s victory.”

The win on Saturday snapped a six-game losing streak for the Kings, but they will have little time to celebrate. The homestand rolls on with the Buffalo Sabres in town on Sunday for another matinee matchup.

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