Light­ning beat Kings, af­ter teams honor Kobe Bryant

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By GREG BEACHAM

LOS AN­GE­LES — Steven Stamkos had two goals and an as­sist, and Eric Cer­nak scored the tiebreak­ing goal early in the third pe­riod of the Tampa Bay Light­ning’s 4-2 vic­tory over the Los An­ge­les Kings on Wed­nes­day night in the first sport­ing event at Sta­ples Cen­ter since Kobe Bryant’s death.

The arena held a somber pregame cer­e­mony hon­or­ing Bryant and the other eight vic­tims of Sun­day’s he­li­copter crash. Bryant’s two re­tired jer­sey num­bers hang high on the walls of the build­ing, which was the re­tired Los An­ge­les Lak­ers su­per­star’s home for the fi­nal 17 years of his two-decade ca­reer.

Both teams played with stick­ers on their hel­mets with Bryant’s two uni­form num­bers, No. 8 and No. 24, su­per­im­posed on a gold heart along with “Kobe” and “Gigi” for Bryant’s 13-year-old daugh­ter, Gianna, who also per­ished in the crash. In ad­di­tion, all the Kings’ play­ers showed up to

Sta­ples Cen­ter wear­ing Bryant’s jer­sey, while the Light­ning donned pur­ple T-shirts fea­tur­ing the same logo on the hel­met stick­ers be­fore the game.

Af­ter the Light­ning ral­lied from a two-goal deficit in the sec­ond pe­riod, Cer­nak got his fourth goal of the sea­son with a long, pos­si­bly de­flected shot through traf­fic off passes from Stamkos and NHL MVP Nikita Kucherov, who both ex­tended their scor­ing streaks to five games.

Tyler John­son also scored, An­drei Vasilevski­y made 32 saves and Stamkos added an empty-net goal in the fi­nal sec­ond of the Light­ning’s first win in two games af­ter their 10-day break.

Kings de­fense­man Drew Doughty missed his first game since April 12, 2014, end­ing the long­est con­sec­u­tive games streak in fran­chise his­tory. The star blue­liner had played in 460 straight games, but an undis­closed in­jury pre­vented him from suit­ing up even af­ter a lengthy break since the Kings’ last game.

Tyler Tof­foli and Alex Iafallo scored for Los An­ge­les. Jonathan Quick stopped 20 shots while the last-place Kings lost their fifth straight in their re­turn from an 11day gap be­tween games.

Los An­ge­les has won one game in Jan­uary while fall­ing to the bot­tom of the West­ern Con­fer­ence.

The Kings went ahead in the first pe­riod on the 13th goal by Tof­foli, the sub­ject of nu­mer­ous trade ru­mors.

As­so­ci­ated Press

TRIB­UTE — Kings left wing Alex Iafallo wears a sticker on his hel­met hon­or­ing Kobe Bryant and his daugh­ter Gigi be­fore an NHL game against the Tampa Bay Light­ning on Wed­nes­day in Los An­ge­les. The Light­ning won 4-2.

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