LAS VEGAS (AP) — It doesn’t take much to get Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell fired up to play inside T-Mobile Arena.
“You don’t have to get amped — you’re in Vegas. It’s showtime,” he said.
Campbell stopped 44 of the 46 shots he faced, Adrian Kempe scored two goals and the Kings surprised the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 on Thursday night.
“It’s pretty fun to play here and be in this city and the fans they have and team they have,” said Campbell, whose first career win was also in Vegas, in 2018. “You don’t have to try to psyche yourself up, it’s just such a fun place to play.”
The Kings, who entered the game in last place in the Western Conference, used four first-period goals to set the tone before Campbell held off the Pacific Division co-leading Golden Knights the rest of the way.
“He, for some reason, plays well here,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said of Campbell. “And to come out of this building with a win, you’re probably saying your goaltender played well because that’s a quality team over there.”
The Golden Knights outshot the Kings 36-5 over the last two periods but were unable to overcome the four-goal deficit.
It was the seventh time in 10 games the Golden Knights allowed at least four goals in a game, and fifth straight game Vegas allowed its guest to score the first goal of the game. It was also the third straight game in which the Golden Knights’ opponent scored the first three goals of the game.
Alec Martinez, Ben Hutton and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the Kings.
“You can’t say enough about our start,” said Campbell, who improved to 2-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average lifetime against Vegas. “When we score first, it’s amazing how well we can play. I know they made a big push in the second period, but we showed a lot of character coming back in the third. It’s just a big win.”
Los Angeles’ victory coupled with Anaheim’s loss to Dallas and allowed the Kings to leapfrog the Ducks out of the West cellar.
Since opening the season 11-18-2 — third worst in the NHL with 24 points — Los Angeles is 7-6-2 with 16 points, tied for 10th-best in the league.
“When we focus having a good start, it’s amazing how well you can play,” Campbell said. “Some games have gotten away from us early, especially on the road early in the season. We’ve kind of cleared that up as of late. We’ve turned the corner there, but to be a really good team in this league you gotta make sure you’re bringing that every night.”
Reilly Smith and Max Pacioretty scored for Vegas. Malcolm Subban made 18 saves and dropped to 6-3-1 in his last 10.
Martinez started the first period scoring barrage for Los Angeles when he gathered a failed clearing try off the boards by Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland and sent a one-timer past Subban from the point. Hutton extended the lead less than two minutes later. He collected a pass from Toffoli and fired a slap shot a few feet in front of Martinez’s goal, making it 2-0.
Toffoli got in on the action when he scooped up the puck off a face off and fired a wrist shot past Subban’s glove. Moments later it was Kempe burying a lingering rebound in the crease with 1.7 seconds left in the period.
The Kings’ four first-period goals tied for the most goals scored in one period against Vegas this season, matching Philadelphia, which did it on Oct. 21. Coincidentally, it marked the second time this season Los Angeles netted four goals in a period, which it also did on New Year’s Eve against Philadelphia.
“Same old story isn’t it? No excuse, we can’t be ready,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “We were down 3, 4-0 in the game. The first period was awful. It’s embarrassing”
The Golden Knights clawed their way back into it, cutting the lead in half with two second-period goals, but it wasn’t enough with Campbell playing outstanding in net.
Kempe added his second goal of the game, and 10th of the season, with eight seconds left.
NOTES: Vegas LW Jonathan Marchessault missed his third straight game and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. … Kings C Kopitar leads in assists and points against Vegas with eight assists and 12 points in 12 career games. … Kings D Drew Doughty is two games away from playing in the 900th of his career.
Kings: At Carolina on Saturday.
Golden Knights: Host Columbus on Saturday.