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Akil Thomas scores 1st NHL goal as Kings beat Sharks 2-1 to improve playoff position

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Akil Thomas scored his first NHL goal and David Rittich stopped 15 shots as the Los Angeles Kings beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Thursday night to improve their playoff position.

“It felt amazing,” Thomas said. “For me, I just wanted to have a good first (period). To score in the first period kind of just made the nerves go away and made me feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Adrian Kempe also scored for the Kings, who are 7-0-1 in their last eight games against San Jose. Los Angeles moved seven points ahead of St. Louis for the second Western Conference wild card with six games remaining.

The Kings also stayed one point behind Nashville for the top wild card and climbed within one point of Vegas for third place in the Pacific Division.

“We’re well aware of who’s ahead of us, who’s behind us," Thomas said. “I think we just come to every game knowing that we need the win.”

Klim Kostin scored for the last-place Sharks, who have lost 11 of 12. Mikael Granlund had an assist to extend his point streak to six games.

Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves in the loss.

“I didn’t love our team’s first period,” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “They played much better in the second and third.”

Kempe scored his 25th goal on a breakaway midway through the first to give the Kings an early lead.

Thomas scored 18 seconds later to make it 2-0. The 24-year-old center was playing his second NHL game. He had 22 goals in 61 games this season for Ontario in the American Hockey League.

Kostin put the Sharks on the board with 1:52 left and Blackwood pulled for an extra skater.

“In the end, all anybody cares about tomorrow is, did you get the two points or didn’t you?" Los Angeles interim coach Jim Hiller said. “So we’ll take the two points. We’ll leave this one behind. We’ll have a rest tomorrow and then we’ll work on the next two points.”

The Kings outshot the Sharks 27-16.

Rittich’s best save came in the first period when he stopped Filip Zadina on a partial breakaway.

“We didn’t give them much,” Kings center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. “We clogged the middle of the ice pretty well. And when we made mistakes, (Rittich) was huge for us.”

Los Angeles center Phillip Danault missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury.

San Jose center Jack Studnicka played his 100th NHL game.

UP NEXT

Kings: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl