Kovalchuk returns with OT goal, Kings beat Sharks 3-2
Kovalchuk scored in overtime in his return from an ankle injury to lift the Kings over the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Saturday. The 35-year-old also scored in the first period, and Alex Iafallo had a goal and an assist. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves to help LA overcome Joe Pavelski’s tying goal with 30 seconds left.
Kovalchuk missed 10 games following an ankle bursectomy and hadn’t recorded a point in the previous 11 contests. The two-time All-Star is back in the NHL for his first season after playing five years in his native Russia.
This was the sort of performance the Kings anticipated when they signed him as a free agent.
“I felt going in I had to give him a chance to show that he was ready to play, I had to give him an opportunity,” Kings coach Willie Desjardins said. “In some of those games, he didn’t have quite as much. But tonight, like overtime … I went with him because I thought he deserved the chance. He played well tonight and he deserved the chance in overtime.”
Kovalchuk scored the winner on a breakaway.
“I tried to do what I’m capable of, and it worked,” he said, acknowledging the moment was pretty sweet. “Yeah, I didn’t score for 21 games.”
Martin Jones stopped 28 shots for San Jose, and Lukas Radil also scored. But the Sharks couldn’t capitalize on Pavelski’s late equalizer.
“In that state we’re in a 6-on-5, we’re in a pretty desperate state of mind,” Pavelski said. “We had a few chances on it, but they kept icing it, kept getting faceoffs. It was just a play I was able to get my stick on it. … Definitely happy to see it go into the net.”
Kovalchuk scored on a power play at 4:28 of the first period, and Iafallo’s scored at 5:15 of the third period and gave the Kings a 2-0 lead.
“He was flying today,” Iafallo said. “That gives us momentum. He’s got a great shot and he proved it today. A really good game out of him.”
San Jose lost its second straight after winning a season-high five consecutive games.
Erik Karlsson extended his assist streak to eight games with two helpers for San Jose.
A Kings goal midway through the second period was overturned on a coach’s challenge. Kings forward Dustin Brown was called for interference on what would have been Oscar Fantenberg’s first goal of the season in 24 games.
NOTES: Kings F Austin Wagner left the game early in the second period after getting taken down by Karlsson on a hard hit near center ice. After getting back on his feet, Wagner’s legs came out from under him. No penalty was called. Desjardins said Wagner’s condition wasn’t immediately known. … Kings D Dion Phaneuf was placed on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He had missed the last three games. The Kings snapped a six-game road losing streak. Their last win away from Staples Center since Nov. 27 at Vancouver. … Iafallo extended his point streak to six games. He has eight points (three goals and five assists) over that stretch. … The Kings are 10-1-2 when leading after two periods.
Kings: Play at Vegas on Sunday.
Sharks: Host Arizona on Sunday.