Sopel cranks up Kings, 4-1
There are games teams would like to bottle and brand.
The Kings savored one of those Monday night, where they worked hard, made plays and actually scored some goals. They uncorked a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers in front of an announced 17,236 at Staples Center that seemed to cleanse the palate after two weeks of being force-fed defeats.
Defenseman Brent Sopel scored two goals and eight players picked up at least one point, including a goal and assist from Alexander Frolov and two assists by center Craig Conroy. Mathieu Garon looked very much like a No. 1 goaltender, stopping 28 of 29 shots. The Kings got the lead, got the Rangers down and got the two points.
In short, it was everything the Kings had failed to be through a five-game losing streak. Whether there is an expiration date on such a performance is yet to be seen, but the Kings felt rewarded for efforts in recent games.
“Sometimes it has to get a little worse before it gets better,” defenseman Mattias Norstrom said. “We did a lot of things right in the last two games.... Today it paid off. Today we got bounces from hard work. It’s not like we did something different or better.”
Now they must do it again.
“And again ... and again ... and again,” Norstrom said
That’s the deep hole the Kings put themselves in only a month into the season.
There was more than a little sense of urgency around the Kings in the last two weeks. The usual markers for a struggling team had already been reached. Coach Marc Crawford had barked at them after a loss to Dallas only four games into the season. Norstrom, the team captain, held a buck-up-boys meeting after a loss to Columbus, a mere 12 games into the season.
Such was the state of a team that was averaging less than two goals per game and had lost nine of their last 10.
“We know we can battle these good teams,” Frolov said. “What we have to do is do it again. We know we have a good team.”
The Kings built up to this game with two A-for-effort games in losses to Columbus and Dallas. That left the Kings with their worst 13-game start since 1987-88.
They took out those frustrations on the Rangers, giving them pinata-like treatment at the start, as the Kings had a 21-5 edge on shots in the first period.
There was creativity on offense.
Anze Kopitar skidded to a stop, in almost cartoonish fashion, sending a Rangers defender flying past him. He then sent a cross-ice pass to Sopel, whose shot from the blue line went off the Rangers’ Brendan Shanahan and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“We have so many shots that didn’t go in the last couple games, it was nice to bury one and give us the lead,” Sopel said.
There was puck arrogance.
Avery took a pass in the slot, then showed the Rangers’ Blair Betts a little sleight-of-stick, tapping the puck back-and-forth before whipping a shot in the net. The goal, 19:12 into the second period, came two minutes after the Rangers cut the lead to 3-1 and allowed the Kings to exhale after two periods.
There was basic, Hockey 101 aggressiveness.
Sopel, who sat out the last two games because of a sore ankle, never hesitated in flinging a shot from the blue line, which gave the Kings a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. Frolov attacked the net and redirected a Conroy pass for a 3-0 lead 1:31 into the second period.