Tyler Toffoli made a quite an auspicious NHL debut. Kyle Clifford scored two goals in a game for the first time in his career and also got into a fight, his more familiar method of operation. The Kings chased San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi in the second period.
All of which propelled the Kings to a commanding 5-2 victory Saturday night in their Staples Center homecoming after losing to the Sharks 4-3 on Thursday night in San Jose and by 5-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz., on Tuesday.
The Kings had a few moments of uncertainty and indecision in their rematch with the Sharks, but for the most part they took the game to the visitors. They led 2-0 by the end of the first period and then by 5-1 going into the third, showing their strength in all the right ways.
Toffoli, a 20-year-old forward who scored 28 goals in his first 55 minor-league games, skated his first NHL shifts alongside veterans Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and didn’t look out of place in his much-anticipated and long-awaited debut with the Kings.
Clifford gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with a shot from a difficult angle from the right wing only 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the game. Justin Williams then banked a centering pass intended for Dustin Brown off the rear end of retreating Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart for a 2-0 lead at 12:19.
It looked like it might be a long night for Niemi, who was under siege from the opening minutes. Niemi made several excellent saves in the first period or the Kings might have led by three or four goals before the first intermission.
Patrick Marleau needed only 35 seconds to take all the momentum away from the Kings, scoring after teammate Joe Thornton’s shot struck the skate off a King and landed on Marleau’s stick. The good times didn’t last for the Sharks, although they had a great chance to tie the score at 2.
Toffoli chopped the stick of San Jose’s Tommy Wingels into kindling on a partial breakaway at 7:58 of the second period. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier gloved Wingels’ penalty shot, calmly preserving the Kings’ 2-1 lead.
It didn’t stay that way for long, however.
Jarret Stoll shoveled a rebound past Niemi to give the Kings a 3-1 lead at 11:15 of the middle period. Clifford jammed a rebound of a Dustin Penner shot past Niemi to make it 4-1 and force Sharks coach Todd McLellan to pull his starter in favor of backup Alex Stalock.
Dwight King then beat Stalock, making only his third NHL appearance, for his third goal of the season to extend the Kings’ lead to 5-1 with a little more than a minute left in what turned out to be a disastrous second period for San Jose.
The Sharks didn’t exactly go down without a fight. Hulking defenseman Douglas Murray fought an extended battle with Clifford only moments after Marleau’s goal. The two traded a number of punches before Clifford scored a crowd-pleasing takedown.
It left Clifford only an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.