Vilardi scores quickly in NHL debut as Kings defeat Panthers


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Not many players can top the NHL debut that Gabriel Vilardi had on Thursday night.

The Los Angeles center scored 10 seconds into his first shift and added an assist as the Kings defeated the Florida Panthers 5-4.

“My first shift I wasn’t expecting that. No one was,” Vilardi said. “It feels great. I got pretty lucky.”

Vilardi, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft, scored the fastest rookie debut goal in Kings history when he fired a wrist shot past Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky 86 seconds into the game. He took a short feed from Kurtis MacDermid just inside the blue line, putting it on net.

“MacDermid did a good job holding up the guy and the puck was laying there for me. I had a lot of space because the defenseman backed off a bit,” Vilardi said.

Vilardi was called up after the Kings traded defenseman Alec Martinez to Vegas on Tuesday and is part of a youth movement that is expected to dominate the last quarter of the season. Los Angeles is last in the Western Conference and its 49 points are the second-lowest in the league.

“To have him score 10 seconds in was remarkable, and it affected the bench,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “The enthusiasm was contagious and I thought we carried over with it and played after that, so a good spark. We needed it.”

Vilardi’s goal is the second-fastest to start a career since the NHL started tracking shifts in 2009-10. Anaheim’s Max Comtois scored 4 seconds into his first shift last season. Vilardi then assisted on Martin Frk’s goal with 1:18 remaining in the second period to put the Kings up 4-3.

The Panthers tied it on Mike Hoffman’s power play goal, his 23rd, 36 seconds into the third before Los Angeles’ Ben Hutton delivered the game winner with 7:15 remaining when he got a rebound off his missed shot and chipped it past Bobrovsky for his fourth of the season.

Drew Doughty added a goal and an assist while Anze Kopitar had two assists to extend his points streak to four games. Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles, which snapped a three-game losing streak to Florida.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov scored a pair of goals and Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and three assists to extend his points streak to five games (three goals, five assists). It is the forward’s fourth four-point game this season.

Aaron Ekblad had two assists and Bobrovsky made 35 saves.

“It was a tough point or two to give up. I think we didn’t play as hard as we had to,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think they did a lot of things right, I thought we were looking to cut some corners here and there.”

Both of Barkov’s goals came in the first period. He tied it at 1 at 7:03 of the first with a wrist shot from the slot and then gave the Panthers the lead 100 seconds later with a wrist shot that Quick was unable to glove. Barkov has 20 goals this season, including six over his last 12 games.

Doughty evened it at 2 with 4:17 remaining in the first with a slap shot from just outside right faceoff circle while on the power play for his seventh. It is Los Angeles’ second goal with the man advantage this month.

Huberdeau got his 22nd goal and third point of the night with a wrist shot on the power play 3:19 into the second. The Kings, though, regained the lead on goals by Trevor Moore and Frk. Moore’s third goal of the season came at 10:18 when he redirected Doughty’s shot in front of the net.

NOTES: Kopitar has four consecutive multi-assist games, the longest such streak by a King since Wayne Gretzky recorded four straight multi-assist games in 1996. … Frk has five goals in eight games. … Kings D Adrian Kempe recorded his 16th assist of the season, tying his total from last year. … Ekblad has seven assists in his last five games. … Barkov has 155 goals with the Panthers and is two away from tying Scott Mellanby for second in franchise history.


Panthers: Continue their five-game trip on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Kings: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Los Angeles won the first meeting 3-1 last Saturday in the Stadium Series at the Air Force Academy.


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