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    Kings’ 4-game win streak ends as Predators stifle them
    • February 23, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — It was pinball hockey on Thursday night at Arena.

    Neither the Kings nor the Nashville Predators seemed to have a firm grasp of the puck, which careened off skates, sticks and players on a night when teams battling for a playoff spot might have hoped for more.

    The Predators (30-25-2, 62 points) inched closer to their hosts in the Western Conference playoff race, besting the Kings (28-17-10, 66 points), 4-1, to take the three-game season series with a pair of wins in L.A. and a home loss at the end of January.

    Nashville didn’t get a shot on goal for nearly six minutes.

    The Kings, who saw their four-game winning streak end while losing for just the second time in seven games under interim coach Jim Hiller, endured a drought of nearly seven minutes.

    With things not clicking on either side, the Predators took advantage of a pass that had been knocked down in the Kings’ zone when Colton Sissons fed the puck to Yakov Trenin, who was well-positioned for a first-time slap shot from the right circle.

    Rittich appeared to have the angle covered, so Trenin continued skating across the face of the goal and switched to the backhand for his ninth goal of the season at 8:47 of the first period while Rittich looked stuck in concrete.

    The Kings got back into the game late in the period while working a two-man advantage following high stick and tripping penalties against Nashville.

    At 19:07, Anze Kopitar’s 29th assist found Kevin Fiala, who snapped off a shot from the high slot to beat Juuse Saros on the glove side for his 15th goal of the season.

    Drafted in the first round by Nashville in 2014, the goal marked the 400th NHL point for the Swiss winger.

    Nashville continued to hold the Kings down before regaining the lead at 14:46 of the middle period.

    From the right boards, Lucas Evangelista threw the puck directly down the goal line. It clanged off the post and settled underneath Rittich, who couldn’t locate it before Mark Jankowski poked in his second goal in seven games this season.

    Operating on a penalty kill, the Kings had a great opportunity to level the score with less than two minutes remaining in the second. But Trevor Lewis failed to get off a quality attempt as he appeared to be of two minds while Blake Lizotte, who returned after missing 14 games with a leg injury, trailed nearby in a two-on-none situation.

    Coming off a goal-of-the-year candidate in his last game, Quinton Byfield was mostly bottled up by the Predators, yet the young forward, who joined Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Lizotte on the third line, had a good chance midway through the last period. Blocking a shot, Byfield snatched the puck and raced the other way. However Saros snatched it out of the air for one of his 27 saves.

    The tight contest slipped away from the Kings after Rittich, who denied 17 of the 19 shots he faced, was pulled with more than three minutes remaining in the third.

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    Empty-net goals at 17:00 by Sissons (his 15th of the season) and Jeremy Lauzon (his sixth) at 19:07 made the scoreline look more lopsided than the game actually was.


    The Kings had movement in and out of their forward lines, with center Blake Lizotte returning from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for 14 games and forward Viktor Arvidsson out because of a lower-body injury after he got hurt during a win against Columbus on Tuesday.

    Arvidsson was placed on injured reserve, but Hiller did not have an update on how long he might be out. Arvidsson, who missed the first 50 games of the season because of a back injury, had two assists in four games before he was sidelined again.

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register