DeSmith earns first victory for Penguins
LOS ANGELES — Until Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith got the start at Staples Center on Thursday night, his entire NHL experience consisted of two relief appearances in Penguins losses.
DeSmith seized the chance to grab his first career victory — with plenty of help from the Penguins’ scoring stars.
Patric Hornqvist scored two goals and Evgeni Malkin got the tiebreaking goal early in the third period of Pittsburgh’s fifth win in six games, 3-1 over the slumping Los Angeles Kings.
Although the Kings didn’t test the 26-year-old DeSmith strenuously, the AHL All-Star selection still stopped 28 shots to win in his first appearance for the Penguins since Dec. 9.
DeSmith learned 24 hours earlier that he would get his first start against the Kings. The news didn’t stop him from getting a great night’s sleep and a refreshing pregame nap.
“I was more relaxed than I thought I would be,” he said. “To play in LA, that’s quite a team they have there, so to get a win in their home barn … it’s super-thrilling.”
DeSmith is filling in as Tristan Jarry’s backup while Matt Murray is on indefinite leave after his father’s death.
“You see all the hard work the young guys put in, and it’s great to see him get his first win,” said Sidney Crosby, who extended his point streak to six games with a third-period assist. “We’re playing good hockey. The first (period) wasn’t great, but we turned it up in the second and third.”
Malkin had a goal and an assist as the Penguins bounced back from a loss in Anaheim one night earlier in the second stop of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs’ three-game California trip.
Hornqvist scored in the opening minute and got another during a five-minute power play midway through the third after Dustin Brown got a game misconduct penalty for sending a kneeling Justin Schultz into the boards near the Kings’ bench. Schultz stayed down for a long moment before skating off gingerly.
“I’m going to close on him, and he stumbles, toe-picks,” Brown said. “I don’t drive him through the wall or anything, but I’m also closing on the play. At the most, it’s probably a two (-minute penalty), I think. … I’ve seen a lot worse.”
Adrian Kempe scored and Jonathan Quick made 28 saves for the Kings, who have lost five straight for the first time this season.
Los Angeles wasted a chance to move from fourth place to second in the Pacific Division with its fifth loss in a row at home since Christmas. The Kings even took two minor penalties while trailing in the final minutes, eliciting boos from the sellout crowd.
“We’re obviously pretty down on ourselves right now,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We want to turn it around as soon as we possibly can.”
Hornqvist put the Penguins ahead just 43 seconds after the opening faceoff when his shot deflected off Kings defenseman Derek Forbort and somehow beat Quick from long range.
The Kings responded with two solid periods, and Kempe finally evened it with his 14th goal late in the second on a breakaway set up by captain Anze Kopitar.
But Malkin put the Penguins ahead 26 seconds into the third period, swatting home his 21st goal from the slot moments after winning a faceoff. The former league MVP’s goal was his seventh in six games.
Jean-Sebastien Dea made his season debut for the Penguins, playing in just his second career NHL game. Pittsburgh scratched Daniel Sprong to make room in the lineup for Dea, who had nine points in his last 10 games for the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Notes: Kings D Jake Muzzin was activated from injured reserve. The veteran missed three games with an upper-body injury. Muzzin got an assist on Kempe’s goal. … Dea made his NHL debut last April in the Penguins’ regular-season finale. He then was a practice player during Pittsburgh’s run to its second straight title. … Los Angeles F Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the first time since joining the team Nov. 23 in a trade with Montreal. He has five points in 17 games for the Kings.