LOS ANGELES (AP) — Alex Iafallo is starting his second season with the Los Angeles Kings on a line with a Hart Trophy finalist and a former No. 1 overall draft pick.
The former undrafted free agent realizes his extraordinary good fortune to be alongside Anze Kopitar and Ilya Kovalchuk, and he’s determined to make the most of it.
Iafallo scored two third-period goals and Kovalchuk had his first two NHL assists in nearly 5 ½ years, leading the Kings to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.
Kopitar and Paul LaDue also scored as the Kings earned their first victory of the new season.
Kovalchuk’s first point with the Kings also was his 400th career assist when he set up Kopitar’s goal in the second period. The Russian star then pounced on a puck near the corner during the third period and found Iafallo with a blind pass for the Kings’ third goal.
Iafallo added an empty-netter, sealing the win and his promising performance alongside two NHL greats. The Kings’ top line combined for five points.
“It’s a blast,” Iafallo said of his line assignment. “It’s pretty cool being out there with them, and learning from (Kovalchuk) and being able to pass to him.”
With beautiful scoring passes to each of his new linemates, Kovalchuk recorded his first multipoint NHL game since April 25, 2013. Now 35 years old, the former No. 1 pick in the NHL draft joined the Kings this season after five years with SKA St. Petersburg.
“It’s been pretty good, (but) just like our team’s game, there’s still room for improvement,” Kopitar said of his line. “We’ll chip away, keep getting better and create more chances and score goals.”
Jack Campbell made 36 saves for the Kings in place of Jonathan Quick, who went on injured reserve with a lower-body injury sustained in practice Saturday. Campbell earned his third career NHL victory with several solid stops.
“I thought he was terrific,” Los Angeles coach John Stevens said. “It was a really solid performance coming in on short notice.”
Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin scored power-play goals for the Red Wings, and rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski had two assists.
Former Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier stopped 21 shots in his Detroit debut, but a miscommunication with his defensemen allowed Kovalchuk to swoop in for the puck and the pass setting up Iafallo’s first goal.
“I felt OK, but I take this loss on my shoulders,” Bernier said. “I thought we played a really good game. We gave up a couple of things, but we played solid. I’ve got to make better plays.”
The Red Wings signed Bernier as a free agent in July. He was drafted 11th overall by Los Angeles in 2006 and was Quick’s backup on Los Angeles’ 2012 Stanley Cup championship team.
After a scoreless first period, Kopitar got a slick pass from Kovalchuk and roofed a backhand for his second goal in the Kings’ two games.
Iafallo’s first goal went into Bernier’s net in the third period after the goalie knocked it off its moorings, but officials allowed the goal to stand.
Larkin got an unassisted goal off his own rebound late in the third, but Iafallo added an empty-netter.
“At the end, there was a couple of costly mistakes and turnovers that they capitalized on,” Larkin said. “But we had a great start. We neutralized their heavy game by moving the puck quick in the offensive zone, and we had a ton of shots. If we play like that, I think we’re going to be a hard team to play against.”
NOTES: Detroit D Trevor Daley left in the first period with an upper-body injury after falling when he apparently got his right skate blade caught between the boards and the ice. … Kings D Drew Doughty played in his 330th consecutive game, matching the franchise record set by Kopitar from 2007-11. … F Jaret Anderson-Dolan made his NHL debut for the Kings after becoming the youngest player to make Los Angeles’ roster since 1984. The 19-year-old’s family was in attendance at Staples Center.
Red Wings: At Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
Kings: Open four-game Canadian road trip at Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.