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Kings take early lead, keep it going in 5-1 win over Canucks

Anze Kopitar, center, was one of five Kings players to score a goal Saturday during a 5-1 victory over Vancouver at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

He spoke recently about needing to get his hands and feet working together on the same page.

Kings forward Marian Gaborik did just that, and those hands pulled his linemate, center Anze Kopitar, right along for the ride and kick-started the Kings as they beat the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1, on Saturday night at Staples Center. Kings defenseman Alec Martinez had a career-high three assists.

“I don’t care about points,” Martinez said. “I’m more worried about two points, as a team.”

Gaborik got it all going, scoring his first goal of the season, added an assist, and Kopitar added a goal and an assist, his first points since Oct. 23.

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The Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli line flickered back to life, combining for six points, and defenseman Jake Muzzin had his first multi-point performance of the season with one goal and one assist.

Muzzin’s offensive contribution came in the first period as the Kings got off to a 3-0 lead. His goal, a long-range wrist shot, was framed by goals by Gaborik and Kopitar. They added another, by Toffoli, in the second, and the Canucks brought in Eddie Lack for the third period, replacing starter Ryan Miller. Carter’s goal, in the third, was his first in seven games, and he added a second-period assist.

The offensive outburst came on a day when defense had been a major concern. The Kings were without veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr and had to play with five defensemen, instead of the usual six.

That meant significant minutes for defensemen Drew Doughty, Muzzin and Martinez. Doughty played 29 minutes 46 seconds, Muzzin 25:36 and Martinez 25:30, a season high.

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“I thought we had the start we wanted,” Martinez said. “Obviously, you’re down a D-man the whole game, everyone is going to get more minutes.

“We’ve all played with each other in practice. The rotation in practice, you end up playing with everybody. It was a good team win. Everyone stepped up. Throughout the year, you’re going to face adversity whether it be injury, or in this instance, cap space. I’ve never come across anything like this before.

“It’s the hand you are dealt, and I think we did a good job.”

Regehr (lower-body injury) is out with an unspecified injury and is day-to-day.

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The ongoing cap issues — mostly due to defenseman Slava Voynov’s indefinite suspension — forced the Kings to play short a player, at Philadelphia, last month. They went with five defensemen and 13 forwards on Saturday, but the extra forward, Jordan Nolan, played only 1:19.

Kings senior vice president Jeff Solomon, the team’s salary-cap guru, said they would be able to afford a minimum recall on Sunday. They could not on Saturday because the salary-cap space changes daily.

However, it appears unlikely they would make a recall from the minors, and there is no game until Wednesday.

“We’ve gone over myriad scenarios on what we’ve got to do in terms of keeping healthy and when we can recall players,” Solomon said. “But we didn’t anticipate we’d have a player [Voynov] in salary-cap purgatory. Or that we would be in salary-cap purgatory.

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“Again, the big part of that is injuries, but we’ve got $4.1 million in salary-cap purgatory. How do you get out of that? That’s really beyond our control.”

Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.


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