Kopitar helps Kings clip Red Wings
DETROIT — Anze Kopitar is feeling much better this season, and that is leaving opponents of the Los Angeles Kings feeling much worse.
Kopitar scored twice, including the eventual game-winner, and set up another as the Los Angeles Kings rallied for a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
Dustin Brown and Adrian Kempe also scored for the Kings (14-8-3), who won successive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak in October. Jonathan Quick made 23 saves.
Mike Green scored for the Red Wings (10-10-5), who have lost five straight (0-2-3). Detroit also dropped to 4-4-4 on home ice this season.
Last season, as the Kings missed the playoffs, Kopitar, their captain, finished with 12 goals and 52 points, both career lows during a non-lockout campaign. But he is certain he knows what the problem was that led to his struggles.
“I played a lot of hockey last year before the season even started, with the Olympic qualifiers (for Slovenia) and the World Cup (for Team Europe),” Kopitar said. “I was tired before we even got going, and I had a bad year.
“I’m feeling good this year, and maybe that’s the whole difference. I’m confident about my game in a way that I wasn’t last season.”
The Wings opened the scoring 14:12 into the first period. Defenseman Green jumped up in the rush, took a feed from Frans Nielsen and streaked unopposed toward the L.A. goal before snapping a high wrist shot past Quick’s glove side.
Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist believed the Wings started strongly but weren’t rewarded for their efforts.
“We created more than enough chances to score more than one goal,” Nyquist said. “That’s for sure. We’ve just got to put the puck in the net.”
Instead, Kopitar and the Kings took over late in the second period. With 2:17 to play in the frame, Brown skated the puck off the boards and wristed a high shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard (32 saves). Kopitar drew the primary assist on that tally.
With 6.1 seconds left in the second period, the Kings struck again, this time on the power play. A tic-tac-toe passing play between Alec Martinez, Drew Doughty and Kopitar in the Wings zone ultimately found a wide-open Kopitar, who drove a low shot into the net before Howard could slide from post to post.
Kopitar may have allowed his confidence to slide after an off-year, but his teammates never lost their faith in him.
“When I’m on the ice, my first idea is always to get Anze the puck and let him lead the rush,” Doughty said. “He does everything for us, but no one knows it because no one watches our games.
“I don’t think he was bad last year. He was playing his butt off every night. He just didn’t get points.”
Only 58 seconds into the third period, it was 3-1 L.A. Oscar Fantenberg’s point shot missed the net, but Kempe, left standing alone beside the Detroit goal, grabbed the rebound off the backboards and stuffed it in the net.
Howard felt that goal was the backbreaker for the Wings.
“You come out, you wash away everything that happened there at the end of the second and come out gearing up for a big period,” Howard said.
“It’s a great bounce for them. He’s standing on the back side and it went right to him.”
Kopitar added his second of the night at 12:17 of the third. With Brown driving to the net, Kopitar utilized him as a screen and fired a low shot through Howard’s legs.
NOTES: Detroit D Trevor Daley (neck) missed his second straight game. ... D/RW Luke Witkowski (NHL suspension) and RW Martin Frk (groin) were also out for the Wings. ... D Kurtis MacDermid and C Torrey Mitchell were scratched for the Kings. ... Wings C Frans Nielsen’s first-period assist was his 400th point in the NHL. ... Detroit LW Tomas Tatar’s next assist will be his 100th in the NHL. ... With 17 assists, Wings C Dylan Larkin already has two more helpers than he dished out all of last season. ... Kings D Alec Martinez played for Wings coach Jeff Blashill in college when Blashill was an assistant coach at Miami. ... The next assist by Kings RW Marian Gaborik will be his 400th in the NHL. He has 396 career goals.