With a busy schedule ahead, including Saturday’s game against the Canucks in Vancouver, Kings coach Darryl Sutter gave the team the day off from practice Thursday. They’re back on the ice Friday morning, before departing for Vancouver later in the day. The Kings play three games in four nights starting Saturday.
Here’s what Kings center Anze Kopitar said about the cosmic significance of defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Wednesday night: “I think every win is important. Don’t look back. You’ve got to look ahead. We felt confident because we knew we could play with them and outplay them like we did in Detroit (in a 3-2 loss Feb. 10), but we didn’t have the best start. We (had) to pick it up. We did, and we managed to pull through.”
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was as good as ever Wednesday night against the Kings, but he had no chance when Anze Kopitar suddenly appeared in front of him with the puck on his stick late in the game. Kopitar beat him to score a spectacular goal that lifted the Kings to a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings.
“He’s a great player,” Howard said of Kopitar. “He’s one of the top skilled players in the NHL. He made a great play. He had all the time in the world and he made us pay. … He came from my blind side there. I don’t know exactly how he got so wide open. I went to yell for someone to pick him up and I realizd there was no one around him.”
The Kings played a stellar defensive game Wednesday night. They had no choice because the smooth-skating Detroit Red Wings had them pinned down in their own end of the ice for extended stretches and it looked like they were skating uphill whenever they controlled the puck.
This wasn’t what the Kings had in mind after a four-game winning streak had them talking about their renewed commitment to the style of hockey that vaulted them from the eighth seed in the Western Conference to the Stanley Cup championship last spring.
After a halting start in the first period and poor special teams play in the second, the Kings suddenly came to life in the third, scoring twice and extending their winning streak to five consecutive games with a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings at Staples Center.
Anze Kopitar capped the Kings’ rally with a highlight reel-caliber goal that gave them their first lead 15 minutes, 12 seconds into the third. Kopitar accepted a deft pass from along the boards from teammate Dwight King, faked Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to the ice and put the puck behind him.
A little more than five minutes earlier, Jeff Carter’s deflection of Mike Richards’ perimeter shot trickled into the back of the net to tie the score at 1-all. It extended Carter’s goal-scoring streak to five consecutive games, one shy of his career best set in 2010.
It also proved to be something of a game-saver for the Kings, who played far too often in their own end of the ice as the Red Wings buzzed around Jonathan Bernier’s net again and again. The Red Wings led 1-0 after a first-period goal by Kyle Quincey, but couldn’t extend their lead.
The Kings squandered a chance to tie the Red Wings, but failed to click on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second period Wednesday night at Staples Center. Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader took a boarding penalty at 11:35 and Jonathan Ericsson went off for tripping at 11:58.
Whatever momentum the Kings gained from their come-from-behind victory Monday over the Ducks seemed to end when they took the ice to face the Red Wings on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Dustin Penner took a tripping penalty only 2:21 into the game. Rob Scuderi then went for tripping at 6:56.
The Kings have won four consecutive games, including an impressive 5-2 decision Monday over the Ducks that ended their rival’s six-game streak. The Kings are 9-6-2. The Red Wings have been in Los Angeles since Monday, and coach Mike Babcock attended the Kings’ game against the Ducks. Detroit isn’t off to a great start either, with a 9-7-3 record. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists). Jeff Carter (10 goals, two assists) and Mike Richards (four goals, eight assists) have 12 points apiece. Henrik Zetterberg has 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) for Detroit.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said defenseman Willie Mitchell underwent platelet rich plasma therapy Tuesday for his surgically-repaired right knee, but there is no timetable for his return to the lineup. Mitchell has had a number of setbacks after undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus in December.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said he traded Simon Gagne to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday in part because he was comfortable with the progress of some of the franchise’s prospects now with Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League. He wouldn’t name names, however. One possibility for promotion sooner rather than later is center Tyler Toffoli, a 20-year-old who as the Kings’ second-round pick in the 2010 draft. He has 26 goals and 17 assists in 43 games.
Here’s what Simon Gagne told a Canadian television network after the Kings traded him Tuesday to the Philadelphia Flyers for a conditional draft pick: “I’m happy to get that chance. It was tough not to play. I’m going to a place I know well. It’s like going home. I know everyone there and I’m going back to where it all started.”