Was it center Anze Kopitar pushing Marian Gaborik to greater heights?
Perhaps it is the other way around with Gaborik pulling Kopitar out of his slump.
Either way, the two have been re-creating some of their playoff magic in last two games, the latest a 4-2 win by the Kings over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
Kopitar recorded three assists and Gaborik scored once, on the power play, and added an assist. They’ve combined for 13 points in the last two games against St. Louis and Arizona.
How did it turn around so abruptly?
“Honestly, if I knew, I’d say it,” said Kopitar, who had one goal in 13 games before Thursday’s breakthrough against St. Louis with a career-high, five-point night.
“But I don’t know. Hockey sometimes is a funny game. You just make one play and you start feeling good about yourself. And the next thing you know, everything goes your way.
“Right now, it seems like we’ve produced quite a bit. We’ve had some chances that we left out there, But we’ve got to continue that and keep on going.”
The third member of the suddenly surging line, Jeff Carter, should not be forgotten. Carter scored the game’s first goal, beating Arizona goalie Devan Dubnyk for his ninth of the season and later missed an inviting open net.
Gaborik has scored in the last four games and has eight points in that stretch, including the power-play goal that tied it at 2-2 with 2:20 left in the second period. He took a hard hit late in the game from Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, looked shook up but returned for his next shift. Gaborik was not available for comment after the game.
“I think they’re getting going,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of the Kopitar line. “Obviously different types of players, all three of them.
“They’ve all had their ups and downs this year and they’re all expected to carry more of an offensive load and they’re doing it a little bit more now.”
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez scored the go-ahead goal, at 1:34 of the third period, on the power play. It was his fourth of the season. Trevor Lewis had the Kings’ fourth goal at 16:22.
Defenseman Jamie McBain, who had been out of the lineup since Nov. 29, added two assists. McBain’s assists came on the power play as the Kings went two for five.
“It’s always nice when you can a multi-point game going,” said McBain, who was back in because defenseman Robyn Regehr is out with an injured hand. “Again, it makes my job easy when we have productive guys that we in this group, just got to give them the puck and they make things happen.
“It comes down to keeping it simple [on the power play]. We’ve got a great group in here and when you establish that shot-first mentality, you get a few of those and it opens up seams later. With this group, they’re going to find those seams and they’re going to make teams pay.”
Said Arizona forward Martin Hanzal, who scored an unassisted goal in the second period to make it 1-1: “We just didn’t play hard enough and took some stupid penalties, especially in the offense zone. It was unacceptable.”
This happened to be the third anniversary of the day Sutter was hired by the Kings, replacing the fired Terry Murray.
And here Sutter stood … two Stanley Cups later.
Sutter, as you might guess, didn’t wax poetic and wander down memory lane and start talking about the day he was in the barn at the family farm when Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi made the phone call to Canada.
Sutter did mention the farm, though, when asked if he remembered that Saturday was the third anniversary
“No…I just remember from being a farmer the days are really short,” he said.