Remember when Anze Kopitar was under scrutiny after last season for underachieving?
Yes, he’s body checked that phase of his career into a large, metal trash can, and the echoes are still reverberating. His season was already MVP worthy and then he has a four-goal game, the first by a Kings player in 25 years.
But the Kings’ 7-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche was slightly more nuanced. They got an important win, in a resilient and dominant fashion, and collected five points, out of a possible six, on the first three games of the trip.
Here’s what we learned:
Kopitar leads the leaders. All Kopitar and linemates Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo were tasked with was stopping the most dynamic line in hockey. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have a combined 89 goals.
Kopitar carved the path with his defensive work, and turned the key for the Kings with the team’s first and third goals for a 3-1 lead.
“We knew it was going to be a tough matchup against the MacKinnon line,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Just watch what they’ve done here lately. I think guys like Kopi, and Drew, when they see that type of challenge, they really get excited for it. I think Kopi really takes a lot of responsibility for being a good defensive guy against a line like that.
“[It was] a really good team effort, but the leadership group, starting with Kopi, deserves a lot of credit for the way the team played tonight.”
Nate Thompson had one of his best games as a King. He won a faceoff cleanly back to Jake Muzzin for Muzzin’s goal, and he gave Kopitar a pass in stride from the wall on Kopitar’s third goal.
Stevens has put Thompson with Adrian Kempe and said Thompson’s faceoff work has benefited Kempe. Thompson is benefiting the Kings with games like Thursday, in a sign of his veteran presence paying off.
The Kings have a chance to string two wins together. Has it really been more than three weeks since they’ve had two straight wins?
Inconsistency has been their game, but this has been a fruitful trip (2-0-1) that can end with a win Saturday at the Edmonton Oilers. General manager Rob Blake likes the common thread as they head for the home stretch.
“Our big guys have been really good,” Blake said. “Kopitar has been terrific all year, and Drew [Doughty] and [Jonathan] Quick. Jeff Carter, whether or not he’s 100% right now, but what he’s able to do in your lineup, [we can] move guys around. We’re in a good spot. [But] we’ve got to win some games.”
Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @curtiszupke