Avalanche blows 2-0 lead as Kings split two-game series

Avalanche blows 2-0 lead as Kings split two-game series

Adrian Kempe completed Los Angeles’ comeback from a two-goal deficit by scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period as the Kings defeated the Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday to salvage a split of the two-game series at the Staples Center.

Blake Lizotte scored an empty-net goal in the final minute as the Kings went on to win their first game of the season.

Colorado, which won the opener 3-2 on Tuesday, built a 2-0 lead in the finale before taking three costly penalties in the second period that led to two L.A. power-play goals.

Avalanche top-prospect Bo Byram, the first defenseman selected in the 2019 draft (fourth overall), made his NHL debut. The 19-year-old took a penalty on his first shift but played better as the game went on as his ice time increased.

It was also a special night for Avs goalie Hunter Miska, who made his first career start in his second career appearance in place of regular backup Pavel Francouz. Miska was the Avs’ fourth-string goalie in the Edmonton playoff bubble last year but has been impressive since training camp began.

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“The injury to Francouz puts him in this position to get a start, but to be honest with you, he’s earned it,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said pregame of Miska, who signed with the Avs as a free agent in 2019. “He’s been fantastic from Day 1 of training camp.”

The Avs led 2-0 after the first period before the Kings stormed back behind two power-play goals — the first on a two-man advantage. L.A.’s comeback wasn’t any fault of Miska’s.

Colorado’s Tyson Jost and Greg Pateryn took penalties within 39 seconds of each other early in the second period and Drew Doughty made them pay with a wrist shot that caromed in off the crossbar at 3:35. And at 17:30 of the period Gabriel Vilardi beat Miska with another wrist shot off iron while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was in the box for interference.

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Star center Nathan MacKinnon was Colorado’s main motor in the first period. He assisted on Mikko Rantanen’s goal 4:49 into the game and then scored a power-play goal in the last minute of the first period.

Miska is new to the NHL but he’s no stranger to playing in big games. He played one season of NCAA hockey for Minnesota-Duluth, and his final game was a 3-2 loss to the University of Denver in the 2017 national championship game. Miska signed with Arizona as an undrafted free agent and played two years in the Coyotes’ organization.

Philipp Grubauer, who backed up Miska against the Kings, is expected to start Friday’s game in Anaheim against the Ducks.

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