Todd McLellan said in morning skate, "Special teams often dictate the outcome of a game, so we better be sharp on both of ours." And he was proven spot on in the Los Angeles Kings' 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars Tuesday night.
Given the Kings' struggles down a man this season, facing a Star's power play that sits second in the league was a big concern. The Kings rose to the challenge though, killing off all three of the Stars' power-play opportunities. Including a clutch kill with 8:33 remaining.
On the other side, the Kings' game-winning goal came on the power play. It was a tight game decided by special teams. And, for what feels like the first time this season, the Kings won that special teams battle.
Rasmus Kupari opened the scoring for LA with a nice shot to beat Jake Oettinger from the right circle in the first period.
The second period saw the teams trade goals in quick succession. Combining for three goals in three minutes. This left the game tied at two heading into the third period with neither team holding a clear advantage.
The Kings were given a massive opportunity off the back of a Tyler Seguin hooking call and were able to take advantage via an Adrian Kempe goal.
"We tried to keep as much speed as we could," said Kempe. "He (Kevin Fiala) made a good read across the neutral zone that gave it to Gabe, Gabe, obviously, has to read what kind of play he has when we get over the line and we got it back. Had kind of a two-on-one coming to the net and just tried to throw it there and I got a touch on it."
The Kings then shut the game down, giving up just five shots in the third period.
This marked Pheonix Copley's ninth win in his 10th start as he continues to be the savior in net for the Kings.
Perhaps the biggest individual win for the Kings was the play of Quinton Byfield. Tuesday was Byfield's best game this season and one of the best games he's played in a Kings jersey.
He finished with just one point, but there were signs of massive improvement in his game. He was confident and drove play for his line. He's struggled to impose himself on games and finally did that against Dallas.
"I thought he (Byfield)had a tremendous game tonight," said McLellan. "He's always been fast and quick, but he really used his body to his advantage. He stripped pucks he created and loosened up pucks for his linemates. Backchecking he caught people from behind, he was responsible defensively and he set up a number of offensive players. To me, tonight was as good a game as we've seen from Q all year. And he had some good ones at the beginning of the year so a real positive sign from him."
"Yeah he (Byfield) played great," said Kempe. "Along the boards and everything, down low he made some really strong plays. Didn't play with a lot of risk, I think we took care of our own zone, and forecheck was a lot better, I felt like, than the last game. He was all over the place today, so that was great to see."
Now the mission is for Byfield to play that way consistently. And if he does, the Kings have an impact player on their hands.
The Kings look to build off this win Thursday night as they take on the league-leading Boston Bruins at Crypto.com arena.