Jeff Carter jumped off the bench, skated into open ice in front of the net and then buried a one-timer to give the Kings a 3-2 overtime victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.
The sequence was kick-started by Anze Kopitar — literally — as he shielded off a defender along the boards and passed the puck to Jake Muzzin with his skate. Muzzin then crossed the blue line and found a streaking Carter, who beat Michael Hutchinson for his eighth game-winner and team-leading 23rd goal of the season.
It came 1 minute 36 seconds into the extra period and improved the Kings to 9-1 in three-on-three overtimes.
“[Kopitar] is the guy that really makes the play,” Kings forward Dustin Brown said. “It’s plays like that, that kind of separate him pretty much from the rest of us in here.”
For the second straight game, the Kings (22-17-4) welcomed a team searching for stability in net. Jets (20-22-4) goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was pulled from his second consecutive start in a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night. That led Coach Paul Maurice to start Hutchinson and his 4-9-2 record, 3.19 goals against average and 89.3 save percentage in 18 appearances.
The start of the game mirrored those statistics, as it took just 3:19 for the Kings to get the puck past Hutchinson. Kopitar found space along the boards and found a waiting Marian Gaborik with a cross-ice pass. Gaborik, who had scored only twice in 20 appearances heading into Saturday, one-timed the pass into the net before celebrating with a swinging fist pump.
But that was the Kings’ only goal on 15 first-period shots. They also hit the post three times — Muzzin nearly buried another left-wing slap shot, Nic Dowd rocketed one off the crossbar and Drew Doughty hit the outside of the right post soon after — but none of those attempts dented the scoreboard.
The Jets did that toward the end of an uneventful second period. Brown went to the penalty box for hooking and Drew Stafford beat Peter Budaj on a wrist shot. Stafford stalked out space on the right wing while Matthew Perreault handled the puck behind Budaj, and Stafford leaned into Perrault’s pass to net his fourth goal of the season.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter called special teams the difference in the Kings’ 5-1 win over the Blues on Thursday, but that was not the case on Saturday as the Kings squandered four power-play opportunities while giving up two power-play goals.
Early in the third period, the Kings gave Winnipeg back-to-back power-play opportunities. They killed the first but were not so successful on the second. A Dustin Byfuglien wrist shot kicked off Kopitar’s skate and past Budaj to give the Jets the lead. But the Kings came up with an answer seven minutes later when Brown smacked in a goal from the right side of the crease.
Kyle Clifford then stood in the same spot with a chance to win the game in regulation, but his shot hit both posts and no net. Clifford sat on the bench and shook his head as the play unfolded on the big screen moments later.
He would not leave the arena doing the same. Neither would his teammates or the Kings fans. They all had Kopitar, Muzzin and, ultimately, Carter to thank.
“There are things that we do, but obviously you got to score,” Sutter said of the Kings’ success in overtime. “Jeff Carter has been pretty good at it.”