It wasn’t a playoff goal or even an overtime goal, but it will be replayed for some time.
That’s because they don’t get much stranger than Anze Kopitar’s game winner for the Kings on Thursday, with the puck hopping up off his stick and off his body and arcing over the net to bounce in off Detroit Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau.
The Kings got the break they needed in a game that was heading toward a regulation loss because they sagged in the middle. The cliche rings true: Every game is tough from here on out, and the Kings had to earn every bit of the 4-1 win against Detroit.
Here’s what we learned:
Anze Kopitar continues to make a case for MVP. The notion that Kopitar should be considered for the Hart Trophy was raised the other day, and coach John Stevens of course agreed.
But it wasn’t just a coach pumping up his own player. The way Kopitar has performed offensively and defensively this season should earn him consideration.
Besides his game-winning goal Thursday, Kopitar got three assists, notably his faceoff against Henrik Zetterberg that led to Paul LaDue’s goal.
His 51 assists this season tie a career-high set from 2011-12, and he’s shown no lapses at Game 70.
It was about time to change it up. It was starting to look as though LaDue might never get into a game, along with Kevin Gravel and Andy Andreoff. Even facing a grueling schedule, Stevens didn’t use LaDue until Thursday. That’s mainly because the Kings need their regulars every step of the way.
But LaDue acquitted himself well by putting the puck on net. He has four points in his last seven games, carrying over from his games from Jan.24 to Feb.13.
“I just went out there and played my game and tried to help the team as much as I can,” LaDue said. “Who knows what’s going to happen from here, but I thought it was a good win and it was a good night.”
These are still the dog days. It used to be that Games 40 to 60 of an NHL schedule were subpar, with teams just trying to get through the grind. After that, they can see the end. Not so recently for the Kings, who have had trouble staying engaged and suffered bouts of ineffectiveness typical of a midseason lull. That was clear in the second period Thursday, but they worked through it against Detroit, which still has a formidable lineup and strong approach.
“I honestly thought it showed character,” Kopitar said. “It showed resiliency and character of this team that we don’t discouraged and we got the job done.”