LA Kings Adrian Kempe

LA Kings forward Adrian Kempe scored his first multi-goal game of the 2021-22 season in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Through the first 17 games of the 2021-22 campaign, the LA Kings have been one of the streakiest teams in the league. After an impressive 6-2 victory over the Golden Knights on Opening Night, Los Angeles lost its next six games.

Todd McLellan’s group followed that with a seven-game winning streak, which has now turned into a three-game losing streak, including Saturday’s back-and-forth 5-4 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the loss, Adrian Kempe tallied his first multi-goal game of the year and now has six goals over his last eight games.

The Hurricanes and Kings combined for three goals over a 1:48 span early in the first period, giving Carolina the early 2-1 lead. Kempe accounted for the Kings’ long goal of the opening frame, re-directing Alex Edler’s blast from the blue line after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff from the left dot.

The 25-year-old forward tallied his second goal of the game and his seventh of the season in the second period as the two teams continued to trade goals, with Carolina ultimately preserving the 5-4 victory.

Following the game, Kempe spoke with the media about the team’s third consecutive defeat.

“Obviously disappointed, I think, the offensive part was there tonight,” he said. “I think we had good looks. [We] spent a lot of time their zone, [and] had a lot of shots. But yeah, I mean, managing the game wasn’t really the best tonight, and that’s probably the big part of why the game got away. So, yeah, disappointed for sure.”

Saturday’s game was pretty much the opposite of Wednesday’s performance against the Washington Capitals, getting shutout to begin their seven-game homestand. The Kings had no shortage of offense against the league’s best defensive team in the Hurricanes, but they couldn’t prevent them from going in either.

Kempe was back up on the Kings’ first line on Saturday night after being dropped down to the third line on Wednesday, with Viktor Arvidsson returning from COVID protocol. During the latter’s absence, the former enjoyed a five-game stretch, scoring four goals and five points while flanking Kopitar.

With the Hurricanes on the powerplay in the second period, Kempe intercepted a pass in the high slot, and the Swedish forward outskated two defenders, burying the puck through Frederik Andersen’s legs to even the game at three goals apiece.

“I just tried to read [the play], the puck was bouncing, and I saw that he was going to throw it back to their guy and tried to pick that off. I just tried to shoot it five-hole,” Kempe explained.

Despite the loss, the Kings are starting to find the right line combinations for a balanced attack. And while his inconsistencies are well-documented, Kempe is passing the eye test on the team’s first line.

The second line of Alex Iafallo, Phillip Danault, and Andreas Athanasiou has shown positive results in a limited sample size, as has the gritty fourth line of Brendan Lemieux, Blake Lizotte, and Arthur Kaliyev.

The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league, boasting an impressive 8-1-0 road record after Saturday’s game. While no points were collected in the standings, the Kings are proving that they can compete with the league’s top teams, a vast improvement from last year.

Moral victories don’t earn playoff spots, but eventually, the Kings will start learning how to win these games.

“I mean, that’s a good part, and even though we lost, I think we had a really good push in the third [period],” Kempe concluded. “We had a lot of good opportunities, could have gotten one or two goals, I think. And obviously, right now it sucks, but some of the things were really good tonight and there’s some things we got to take with us and other things we have to go back and look at and be better next game.”

The Kings turn around and host the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night.

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