From the current captain to the previous one, the Kings had skilled hands to steer their ship.
Then it hit the turbulent waters that is the Kings’ rivalry with the Calgary Flames.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown led a comeback from a two-goal deficit, but the Kings let a point slip from their grasp in a 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 18,230 at Staples Center.
It got predictably chippy. Calgary took a run at Drew Doughty late in the third period, and the Norris Trophy winner got into it with Flames nemesis Matthew Tkachuk from the penalty box.
But it was Tkachuk’s tying goal, his second of the game, midway through the third period that forced overtime, finished off by Sean Monahan’s winning goal.
“It’s a division home game, and having a lead late in the third, you definitely don’t want to give that up,” Kopitar said. “It’s still a point that we’ll take, but we can’t let that become a habit where we’re giving up leads late in the third, especially at home. It’s definitely a sour taste in our mouth.”
Kopitar began the comeback in another fine game that further affirmed he’s back. Brown, the Kings captain before Kopitar, displayed great stickwork with back-to-back goals on deflections to erase a two-goal deficit.
Kopitar cut the deficit to 2-1 with a wrist shot from the left circle that broke the shutout in the second period. The Kings buzzed with energy following six minutes’ worth of penalty killing after Kyle Clifford got knocked out of the game with an upper-body injury, the Kings said.
Tkachuk, of course, is public enemy to the Kings because of his illegal elbow to Doughty last season. Doughty took a hit from Michael Frolik against the boards in the third period, and Doughty was down for several moments.
Brown said he didn’t see the play but understands why the Flames are hunting Doughty.
“If I’m on any other team, I’m targeting Drew,” Brown said. “He’s a big part of team. That’s what you have to do to the other team.
“I think a big part of [the rivalry] is … they were in the playoffs and we weren’t last year. We’ve got to change that.”
Commissioner Gary Bettman took in the game and touched on several topics in an informal visit.
Bettman said that the NHL’s first games in China were a success and the league intends to return there. The Kings and Vancouver Canucks played preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai last month. Bettman said he thinks the next visit will also be for preseason games but stressed that nothing is formalized.
“We’ve got to make sure that everybody’s onside before we can move forward,” Bettman said. “But our goal is to do more because it was such a great experience and the Kings traveled so well.”
Bettman attended the emotional home opener for the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday and referenced Christiana Duarte, a Kings employee who was among the Las Vegas mass shooting victims recognized in a pregame ceremony.
Bettman said there are no immediate plans for the Kings to play in another outdoor game or host any other NHL events. The Kings held the 2010 draft and last season’s All-Star game. The Ducks have never hosted either.
“There will be more events on the horizon, but we do have to spread them around,” Bettman said.