Kopitar lifts LA Kings past Maple Leafs 3-2 in shootout

Kopitar lifts LA Kings past Maple Leafs 3-2 in shootout

LOS ANGELES — Anze Kopitar ended his 13-game goal drought only by banking a shot off the visor on Nikita Zaitsev’s helmet. In the shootout, Kopitar fanned on his shot and still scored the winning goal.

The Los Angeles Kings and their struggling captain welcome any amount of accidental success while they attempt to stay in the playoff race.

Kopitar scored early in the third period and managed the only goal in the shootout, leading Los Angeles back from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Kopitar and Tanner Pearson scored 90 seconds apart to tie it for the Kings, who opened a seven-game homestand with a key win for their playoff hopes. Los Angeles moved one point in front of St. Louis for the final wild card in the Western Conference, although the Blues have two games in hand.

The entire season has been laborious for Kopitar, the team’s leading scorer for nine consecutive seasons. The Slovenian centre failed to get a goal in February, but he ended the Kings’ 93-minute scoring drought early in the third when his shot hit Zaitsev in the visor and ricocheted past Frederik Andersen.

“I took the shot, didn’t catch it quite well,” Kopitar said. “I didn’t even know at first it went in, but then all the guys started to throw their hands in the air, so I figured it went in. I’ll take ’em. Maybe that’s the break that I needed, but we’ve got to keep going, obviously, and the team has got to be winning.”

Kopitar then beat Andersen with that changeup in the shootout, sending the Kings to their first shootout victory in four tries since Oct. 22.

“If I’m completely honest with you, I missed my shot, but it went in,” Kopitar acknowledged. “They all count, and I’ll take it.”

Jonathan Quick also played a major part in the victory. In his fourth start of the season, he stopped 29 shots and denied all three Maple Leafs in the shootout, including a spectacular backhand stop of William Nylander to end the game.

Tyler Bozak and Zaitsev scored early goals for the Maple Leafs, who have lost four straight. Toronto also fell to 1-8 in shootouts this season.

“We got a point, but it’s not everything we want,” defenceman Morgan Rielly said. “As a team, we think we’re right there. Every game counts. We’re coming down the stretch, and it’s a good feeling to (be in the playoff race). It’s up to us.”

Andersen made 33 saves in his first trip back to Southern California since the Anaheim Ducks traded him to Toronto in the off-season.

Although Andersen admitted he would love to play in Anaheim on Friday night, coach Mike Babcock said backup Curtis McElhinney will start.

“Team played good and Freddie played good, (but) we have to find ways to get points,” Babcock said. “We are unmistakably on the outside right now in the playoff race, and have to keep grinding.”

Jarome Iginla played nearly 16 minutes in his debut with the Kings, who acquired the 39-year-old veteran from Colorado at the trade deadline on Wednesday. Wearing a black No. 88 jersey, Iginla got a warm reception from the sellout crowd at Staples Center.

Iginla welcomed the return to a playoff race after spending the winter with the struggling Avalanche.

“You could feel it, being in that game,” Iginla said. “Each point is so important, and the desperation, it is fun to be part of that, and the urgency of every shift. All the little battles both ways and the intensity — it’s been a while.”

After Kopitar scored off Zaitsev’s head, Pearson tied it with his 22nd goal, nimbly keeping the puck away from Andersen’s poke-check and sliding it under the Danish goalie.

NOTES: Brian Boyle won a faceoff to set up Zaitsev’s goal. The assist was Boyle’s first point since joining Toronto in a trade with Tampa Bay. … Kings forward Nick Shore was sidelined early in the game with an upper-body injury. … Toronto forward Josh Leivo was an apparently healthy scratch despite scoring nine points in the previous eight games. … Andersen played his 10,000th NHL minute.


Maple Leafs: At the Ducks on Friday to finish a three-game California road swing.

Kings: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

Just Posted

West Kelowna transmission line delays frustrating for council

Plans to twin existing transmission line from Merritt appear to be too costly

West Kelowna winery’s Festival of Trees returns

The fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation will return for a third year Nov. 22.

New era for West Kelowna Warriors with new ownership, management and culture

The Warriors’ revealed the team’s new president and outlook for remainder of the season

World’s largest Indigenous tourism conference hits Kelowna

The Syilx, Nlakápamux and Secwépemc Nations are hosting the 2019 IITC

Canadian Mental Health Association launches Kelowna initiative to improve workplace mental health

Known as “Thoughtfull” the initiative aims to work with employers to create a healthy workplace

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Workers’ camp at LNG facility in Kitimat takes shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations

Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges

238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours

Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades

Salmon Arm pilot takes part in Remembrance Day flyovers

Hamilton McClymont and other pilots pay aerial tribute at several North Okanagan-Shuswap ceremonies

Most Read