Toffoli scores 2 early in 3rd period, Kings beat Devils 5-1
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Devils fans came to the Prudential Center to jeer Ilya Kovalchuk. The home team certainly didn’t give them a reason to cheer.
Tyler Toffoli scored twice in 35 seconds early in the third period to spark the Los Angeles Kings to a 5-1 victory over the Devils on Tuesday night.
Toffoli, who had the overtime winner Monday against the New York Rangers, helped send the Kings to their third win in four games.
Adrian Kempe, Dion Phaneuf and Kovalchuk also scored for Los Angeles. Jack Campbell made 29 saves and Anze Kopitar had three assists.
It was the first game in New Jersey for Kovalchuk since he left the Devils in 2013 to continue his career in Russia. He signed with the Kings as a free agent last summer.
Kovalchuk was booed loudly when his picture appeared on the scoreboard as one of the Los Angeles starters. The hostile reception continued throughout the game whenever he hit the ice, and especially when he handled the puck.
He returned the favor, scoring with 2:24 remaining to boost the lead to 5-1.
“That’s not something you’re expecting, but that’s OK,” Kovalchuk said of the game-long razzing. “You know that’s their emotions, and that’s how they react, so that’s what I think. I was happy when I scored. That’s always the best answer.”
Pavel Zacha scored for New Jersey, and Keith Kinkaid stopped 20 shots.
The game was tied 1-all before the Kings scored three goals in the first 1:52 of the third period.
Toffoli started the outburst on a power play 32 seconds in. He took a flip pass from Kopitar and rifled the puck under the crossbar before striking again just 35 seconds later.
“To start the third period with the power play was huge, and we went in with the plan of getting the puck to the net,” Toffoli said. “Kopitar found me in the slot and we put it in. It kind of kept rolling from there. We took over the game in the first two minutes, and did a good job and did the right things necessary to win.”
Phaneuf added his first of the season on a point shot that glanced off a New Jersey defender, and suddenly the Kings were in control.
Kempe opened the scoring at 6:21 of the first period with a shot from the slot that handcuffed Kinkaid.
It was the only goal of the opening period — and Kempe’s third in the last two games.
The momentum shifted New Jersey’s way to start the second as the Devils fired nine of the first 10 shots of the period. The pressure paid off when Zacha evened the score at 3:31 on a sensational setup by Jesper Bratt. Skating behind the Kings net, Bratt fed a no-look backhand pass to the slot where Zacha slammed it home.
It was another disheartening loss for the Devils, who have been unable to generate positive momentum in a season that has slipped away from them.
“It seems like we put together a good game here and there,” captain Andy Greene said. “It’s not like we’re not working hard. They’re mental mistakes. It just seems when that happens, we’re getting busted for it. The goals are happening. We’re letting them in. We compound one mistake into two or three.”
NOTES: Jeff Carter, who sustained a lower-body injury in the Kings’ victory Monday night over the Rangers, is sidelined day-to-day, according to coach Willie Desjardins. ... Nate Thompson returned for the Kings after missing two games with the flu. ... The game began a season-high four-game homestand for the Devils, who play nine games at the Prudential Center in February.
Kings: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Devils: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday.