Column: Jeff Carter injured in Kings’ overtime win over Coyotes
Never one to waste words, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter easily boiled his team’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday down to its essence.
“We had to win the third period. We did that,” he said.
But how they did it turned a post-holiday snoozer into an adventure that kicked off a four-game trip with one head-shaking moment after another.
“It’s not what we wanted to do,” said Anze Kopitar, who avoided a poke check and lifted a beautifully timed backhander above a sprawling Louis Domingue 36 seconds into sudden-death play, “but at the end of the day we got the two points.”
Despite losing leading scorer Jeff Carter to an upper-body injury early in the first period at Gila River Arena, the Kings were able to hang tough and trailed by only one goal — and that a power-play shot by Oliver Ekman-Larsson that appeared to deflect upward before eluding Jonathan Quick — entering the third period. Carter did not return, and a hockey operations executive said Carter would return to Los Angeles.
Goals by Drew Doughty on a one-timer from the left circle during a power play 37 seconds into the final period, by Tanner Pearson on a shot that deflected off Arizona defenseman Connor Murphy at 4:17 and Dustin Brown’s first goal in 14 games — a down-low shot at 6:23, set up on a pass from Nick Shore during another power play — appeared to put the Kings in command.
However, a five-minute major penalty and match penalty called against Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin at 13:20 of the third period for an illegal check to the head of Boyd Gordon gave the Coyotes an extended power play. A delay-of-game penalty against Alec Martinez gave the Coyotes a five-on-three advantage, which they cashed in on to cut the Kings’ lead to 3-2 on Antoine Vermette’s tip of a long shot by Michael Stone at 16:07.
It was almost inevitable that Arizona would tie it, which standout defenseman Ekman-Larsson did during a five-on-four advantage with 3:23 left in the third period. “He made some really good plays for them tonight; he was probably the difference-maker for them,” Brown said.
And still, the Kings didn’t break. “It’s just about leaning on each other, really,” Brown said. “Everyone else has to pick up the slack. It’s like an injury, almost, an opportunity for some guys to play a little bit more. A guy like Kopi, the more he plays the better he gets.”
Doughty, helping to fill in for Muzzin, played 33 minutes 24 seconds, a season high in a season full of high-minute games. Kopitar, filling in for Carter, played 27:41, also a season high.
“We’ve got so much depth on this team and so many guys that can make a difference every single night,” Doughty said. “Those are two very key guys in our lineup but all our centermen stepped up and took over his spot. They did a great job.”
A match penalty calls for an automatic suspension, pending review by the league, but that can be rescinded. Sutter disagreed with the call, saying Muzzin made “a hockey play,” and that Muzzin’s derriere hit Gordon in the face. “But they had their arms up all night,” Sutter said of the referees. “It was all penalties, all special teams.”
And a special win, if unlikely and a lot more exciting than the early going indicated it would be.
“It’s pretty deflating when you let two goals in, in the last couple minutes. It sucks,” Doughty said. “And things go through your head sometimes, ‘We might have blown this one,’ or whatever it might be. But with our team, we always come back strong. We’ve learned over the years that when you let in a goal you’ve got to come back stronger and make a difference out there and I thought we did that.”
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen
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