LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings entered Tuesday as one of the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams, averaging about 2.5 goals per game.
It took them less than nine minutes to top that average.
No, it was not a joyous New Year’s Eve for the Flyers.
The Kings scored three goals in the first 8 minutes, 45 seconds en route to a not-as-close-as-it-looks 5-3 victory over the Flyers at the Staples Center.
The Flyers, coming off Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win in Anaheim, are 1-2 on a season-high six-game road trip that stops in Vegas on Thursday. They have been outscored, 11-4, in those two losses.
The Kings outscored the Flyers on special teams, 4-1, going 3 for 3 on the power play and adding a shorthanded goal. The Flyers began the night with the NHL’s sixth-best penalty kill, and it was just the second time this season they had allowed three power-play goals.
“I don’t think we were that bad five-on-five,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “But we gave up three (on the power play) and the shorty. That’s the game.”
“We just needed to be a little harder on bodies, a little harder on the puck,” said losing goalie Brian “Moose” Elliott, who had won six of his last seven road decisions before Tuesday. “I wanted to come out a little better than that. It was disappointing.”
Justin Braun’s first goal as a Flyer -- it deflected off a Kings defender -- cut L.A.'s lead to 4-1 with 5:01 left in the second.
The goal was scored shortly after Ivan Provorov was leveled by the Kings’ Kurtis MacDermid, and MacDermid was then knocked over the boards by Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg.
The game, calm to that point, turned chippy the rest of the second period.
The Kings virtually locked up the win when Martin “Buy Me a Vowel” Frk scored on a blast from the top of the left circle with 18:29 left in the third, beating a screened Carter Hart to make it 5-1. That made L.A.'s 30th-ranked power play 3 for 3 on the night.
Claude Giroux answered with a power play goal to get the Flyers within 5-2 with 12:44 remaining in the third. Scott Laughton, who sat out the previous seven games with a groin injury, cut it to 5-3 with 2:52 to go, but the Flyers wouldn’t get any closer.
Just like he did in Anaheim, Elliott allowed a soft early goal. This time, he did not settle into a groove like he did against the Ducks and he was replaced by Hart after the Kings built a 4-0 first-period lead. (Hart, who has struggled mightily on the road, stopped 13 of 14 shots, including Jeff Carter’s shorthanded breakaway.)
Only the first goal was Elliott’s fault, though he wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was against the Ducks.
“We kind of left Moose hung out to dry,” Hart said.
Clifford Scott beat Elliott to the short side as he whipped a shot from the top of the left circle with 14:29 left in the first, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead.
Los Angeles (17-21-4), which entered the night in last place in the Western Conference and had lost five of its last six games, added a pair of quick power-play goals to make it 3-0.
Alex Iafallo redirected Anze Kopitar’s shot/pass into the net with 13:03 remaining in the first. Less than two minutes later, an uncovered Tyler Toffoli scored on his own rebound to make it 3-0. Elliott had made two great saves before Toffoli scored.
The Kings made it 4-0 when Adrian Kempe finished off a two-on-one and scored a shorthanded goal with 2:08 to go in the first.
Entering the night, Los Angeles was minus-14 on special teams, but the Kings were plus-3 in a first period that may have been the Flyers’ worst 20 minutes of the season. Forget that the teams had an equal number of first-period shots (15) because Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick (32 saves overall) was never seriously tested.
“A staple of our team has been our penalty killing,” coach Alain Vigneault said, “and tonight it wasn’t very good. We tried to battle back but we have a coupe guys right now, for whatever reason, who don’t seem to have a lot of energy on the ice, so we’re going to have to find out why and obviously get better. I anticipated a much better game after the way we played against Anaheim.”
Before coming to life in the third period, the Flyers (22-13-5) were thoroughly outplayed.
“We weren’t getting through the neutral zone well, and when we were getting getting pucks deep, they were getting out of the zone quick,” Provorov said. “Quick helped them break out and we just couldn’t forecheck.”