The Kings are back in a playoff spot with 18 games left in the season. And though the St. Louis Blues’ season-long four-game losing streak probably has more to do with that than anything, the Kings have battled for points lately, earning two during a two-game road trip in which they lost twice in overtime but then rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to beat Toronto in a shootout.
Here are three takeaways from that game:
Anze Kopitar has been found
The Kings have been looking for Kopitar all season. But their captain, who has averaged more than 24 goals a season in 10 years with the team, has remained elusive. He made his presence felt Thursday, bouncing a power-play goal in off the head of Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, then scoring the only goal in the shootout to snap the Kings’ two-game losing streak.
“Maybe that’s the break that I needed,” he said of the assist he got from Zaitsev’s noggin. “But I’ve got to keep going, obviously, and the team’s got to keep winning.”
The breaks also went his way in the shootout, when he was the only player to find the back of the net.
“I missed my shot, but it went in,” he said. “They all count, and I’ll take it.”
Kopitar leads the team with 30 assists but Thursday’s goal was his first since Jan. 31 and just his seventh on the season. A productive Kopitar down the stretch — he skated more than 22 minutes Thursday, more than any forward — could wake an offense that ranks 25th in the NHL.
Jarome Iginla is having fun, which is a good thing
Dean Lombardi, the Kings’ president and general manager, wasn’t sure exactly what he was getting when he acquired the 39-year-old winger at the trade deadline. And though Iginla didn’t take a shot in his Kings’ debut, he started on a line with Kopitar and Marian Gaborik and provided a spark and a physical presence in his return to the playoff race.
“It’s great to be back in that excitement,” he said. “Wins feel good all the time, but they feel so much better the more that’s on the line. Each point is going to be so important.
“There are teams that are right around in the standings, and it should be fun.”
As for what Iginla, a 20-year NHL veteran who was captain of Kings Coach Darryl Sutter’s Stanley Cup team in Calgary, brings to the team, he listed experience first. But, he added, “I can be good in front of the net and in the corners and I can shoot the puck.”
“I don’t think I was good as I’d like to be tonight,” he continued. “I’d like to be better.”
Shore leave shows Kings will continue to battle injuries
The Kings have lost 200 man-games to injury this season, and that number will continue to grow. The team was without defenseman Matt Greene and forward Jordan Nolan on Thursday, then lost center Nick Shore to an upper-body injury early in the second period. He did not return, and Sutter declined to provide details regarding Shore after the game. Shore has five goals and seven assists in 63 games but one of those goals came three games ago.