Manor Postgame Tidbits: Thomas’ GWG in San Jose has Kings Closing in on Playoff Berth

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Akil Thomas has officially arrived as an NHL player, scoring another game winning goal — and pushing the Kings closer to a playoff berth — as LA downed the Sharks 2-1 in San Jose on Thursday.

Just 18 seconds after Adrian Kempe opened the scoring in the first period, Thomas scored his first goal in the National Hockey League. The 2018 2nd-rounder has spent plenty of time in the AHL and battled several injuries to get to this point; a point not lost on Jordan Spence – Thomas’ former Ontario Reign teammate – who was proud to share in the jubilation that followed on the ice.

Only person happier for Akil than Akil was Spenny
🥹
pic.twitter.com/IUULnbplgV

— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 5, 2024


AKIL THOMAS YOU HAVE SCORED IN THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/roJKcHM2O5

— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 5, 2024


STATS CHECK

Akil Thomas leads @TheAHL with 9 game winning goals.

In his second @NHL game, scores his first NHL goal… And it stood as the GWG.

Killer is Klutch.#GoKingsGo

— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) April 5, 2024


Thursday’s contest was reminiscent of an early-season game for LA. They scored multiple goals early in the opening frame and then proceeded to lock the game down as things progressed. It’s a positive sign for coach Jim Hiller and should give his players a boost of confidence now that they’re back to looking connected and winning games.

Ideally, of course, the Kings would like to gain more separation when having the lead in games. Capturing the elusive third goal has been a struggle since the midpoint of the season and will continue to be an area they work on.

Stat Sheet Takeaways: Part of the reason LA failed to extend their lead against San Jose was their 0-for-4 mark on the man-advantage. They moved the puck around well, but once again, could have been more direct and generated more shots on net. San Jose netminder Mackenzie Blackwood only faced five shots over the course of four Kings power play opportunities.

A Season of Firsts: Thomas’ goal on Thursday was the sixth time this season a Kings skater scored their first career NHL goal — joining Alex Laferriere, Andreas Englund, Alex Turcotte, Brandt Clarke, and Jacob Moverare. LA has continued to inject youth into their lineup throughout 2023-24 and their rookies (sans Englund) have wasted no time getting on the score sheet.

Out-of-Town Help: Both St. Louis and Minnesota lost their respective games in regulation on Thursday. As a result, combined with LA’s win, the Kings sit seven points clear of the postseason cutoff line. They only need six points to be guaranteed a playoff spot. With six games remaining, that seems fairly reasonable.

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