Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
Kopitar leads Kings back for OT win against Blues
A dismal start could have condemned the Kings once more as they fell behind by three goals in the opening period, but instead they scored four unanswered goals to upend the St. Louis Blues 4-3 in overtime at Staples Center on Saturday night.
It was the first time the Kings surmounted a threegoal deficit to win since 2014, against the Blues.
“It shows a lot about each guy in the room. It was a gut-check moment for us,” winger Matt Luff said.
Center Anze Kopitar scored twice for the Kings and set up Luff’s goal, playing a role in all three regulation goals. Center Gabe Vilardi led a three-on-one rush in overtime, which winger Adrian Kempe finished on the backdoor to cap the rally. Jonathan Quick stopped 22 of 25 shots.
“To me Kopitar is a hall of famer,” Luff said. “You look up and down the league, I don’t think any team wouldn’t want him as their No. 1 center.”
Forward David Perron had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Winger Nathan Walker tallied as well. Forward Brayden Schenn had a pair of assists, including one on center Ryan O’Reilly’s power-play goal. Jordan Binnington faced a barrage by the Kings, finishing with 30 saves.
The Kings entered the game having lost four consecutive games whereas the Blues had hit the right notes against the California teams with four straight wins on their trip. That included a comeback victory against the Kings on Friday.
“If you were a betting man, you’d probably have bet on us yesterday and not today,” Kopitar said. “But sometimes hockey is a funny game and we’re happy to be on top tonight.”
There was a parallel with Friday’s game when Perron again scored on the first shot of the night. The Blues caught the Kings pinching offensively and the veteran forward finished with a onetimer 25 seconds into the game.
St. Louis struck again on a counterattack 3:13 later, with Walker scoring a no-contest, tap-in goal.
“Throughout the first it was just a track meet,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Probably exciting to watch but not very productive for the black and silver team tonight.”
The low point of the game came on the Blues’ third goal. Rookie center Rasmus Kupari took a penalty and the Blues’ scorching power play scored its fifth goal, from O’Reilly, in the past three games.
The Kings managed to get one back off a strong individual effort by Kopitar, taking advantage of some tentative play by defenseman Torey Krug and wristing a shot by Binnington
“What was satisfying was that we could get back to our game,” McLellan said.
The Kings scored two late second-period goals to even the score — a power-play tally by Kopitar with 1:51 remaining and the other by Luff with 11 seconds left.
The Kings gathered momentum but the third period remained scoreless, setting up overtime.
After the Blues failed to convert a solid overtime opportunity, and the Kings headed back the other way with three players outnumbering a lone Blues defender. After the Kings strained to stay onside, Vilardi sent a pass across for a no-doubt goal for Kempe.
“Big picture right now, we get three out of four (points), but they also get two out of four,” McLellan said. “You could say that the hockey gods weren’t on our side tonight, but they were tonight.”