Anze Kopitar is feeling better, but Kings aren’t after 3-2 loss
Cranky was the buzzword of the day (and night).
It started with Kings Coach Darryl Sutter in the morning, taking issue with his underperforming captain, Dustin Brown. Then it spread, almost like a virus, rampaging through the Kings and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
There were far more fights than goals until things eventually quieted, a bit. Columbus defeated the Kings, 3-2, at Staples Center, ending L.A.'s four-game home winning streak.
Brandon Dubinsky put the Blue Jackets ahead for good at 18:13 of the first period as Nick Foligno’s centering effort deflected off Dubinsky’s leg past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, making it 2-1.
They expanded the lead to 3-1 at 10:52 of the third period on Gregory Campbell’s goal, from the left circle, off a nifty drop pass from defenseman Jack Johnson, the former King.
“We’ve got to get better, as far as bearing down when we get our opportunities,” Kings left wing Milan Lucic said of the third period. “When you hold a team to eight shots in the first two periods, and you’re still down, I think you’re not doing a good enough job in the scoring areas.
“It definitely wasn’t our best effort, from how we’ve been playing, as of late. Hopefully, we can learn from something like this: No matter who your opponent is … everyone is coming to play, night in, night out.”
The Kings had entered the game having won eight of their last nine and had center Anze Kopitar in the lineup. Kopitar had missed the final two periods of Tuesday’s game at St. Louis after getting hit in the right side of the head by the Blues’ Ryan Reaves.
He said he started feeling better after the game.
“You guys saw it on the replay. It was pretty noticeable,” Kopitar said after the morning skate Thursday. “It happened quick. I’d like to think he didn’t do it on purpose, obviously. But it is what it is now and the bottom line is that I’m feeling good now.”
Kopitar had no shots on goal, nor did his linemate Marian Gaborik. But Kopitar assisted on Jeff Carter’s goal at 19:00 of the third period, which cut the lead to 3-2. It came with Quick pulled for an extra attacker and the goal was Carter’s sixth of the season.
The other Kings’ goal came, on the power play, by defenseman Alec Martinez, who ripped a shot from the left circle, at 12:47, tying it, 1-1, in the first. Assists went to Brown and defenseman Jamie McBain.
Offense all but vanished in the second period. In fact, the Blue Jackets did not record a single shot on goal in the period, a franchise first. The only other time the Kings held a team without a shot in a period in the regular season was April 5, 1978 against the St. Louis Blues. Incidentally, the Kings lost that game too.
Columbus and the Kings combined for 50 penalty minutes in the first two periods. One of the edgy moments came from a fired-up Quick late in the first period. The Blue Jackets’ Scott Hartnell took a quick jab at the puck after the whistle and Quick took issue with it and went after Hartnell.
And … a scrum ensued.
The series of scraps made for a choppy, inconsistent game. As it was, Sutter had been talking about the inability of Kopitar’s wingers to find any offensive consistency. He took note of the slumping Brown’s scoring difficulties. Brown has four assists the season, and his assist on the Martinez goal was his first point in four games.
At St. Louis, he played a season-low 14 minutes 33 seconds.
“He hasn’t played very well lately,” Sutter said after Thursday’s morning skate. “He gets the opportunity to play with a special player [Kopitar] and he’s got to perform. We’re getting into regular-season performances, based not just this year but over the last couple of seasons. Needs to be a better player.”
There had been some positive signs with Brown’s play in training camp and at the start of the regular season.
“That’s what we talked about. He had six months off, trained really hard and came in in really good shape, getting lots of shots,” Sutter said. “We put him in power-play situations, penalty-killing situations to regain his 200-foot game. Showed a lot of confidence in him. Now he has to produce.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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