Those who have listened to Kings Coach Darryl Sutter recognize that the man doesn’t engage in exaggeration.
Not often, at least.
He said the other day that Kings center Anze Kopitar has been displaying a certain attitude this season: “If you want to beat us, come through me.”
The Detroit Red Wings, a tough road team of late, certainly tried. But Kopitar grabbed hold of Monday night’s game and had a hand in every goal, leading the Kings to a 4-2 victory over the surging Red Wings with a goal and three assists at Staples Center.
The Red Wings had been unbeaten on the road in 2016, winning at Buffalo, New Jersey, San Jose and Anaheim.
The Kings scored two power-play goals, one by Kopitar and the other by defenseman Alec Martinez, who scored the winner at 1:28 of the third period, and turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli scored the game’s first goal, his 20th of the season. Last season, he had 23 goals in 76 games.
Kopitar matched his season high for points — he had four assists against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 28 — and it came two nights after the Kings lost in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues.
Of course, the attitude on the ice does not translate to off-ice swagger for Kopitar, who is unfailingly modest.
“I feel pretty good,” he said.
Said Martinez: “If you need someone to pump his tires, come over here and I’ll say all the things that he won’t.”
The Kings have lost in regulation only once in their last nine games and were sparked by their power play.
This was only the third time this season they’ve scored more than one power-play goal in a game.
“Maybe [we] simplified it a bit,” Kopitar said. “We actually had some pretty good looks against St. Louis too. On the one I had, the goalie made a pretty good save and Ty [Toffoli] hit the post.
“Tonight it just went in. Maybe looking more to take shots and converge on that instead of trying to make the perfect pass or the perfect play.”
It proved to be the difference.
The Kings trailed 2-1 late in the second period and needed a mere seven seconds to convert after Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was penalized for tripping Kings center Jeff Carter
Kopitar beat Howard with a shot from the left circle for his 12th goal of the season and second in two games. The assists went to defenseman Jake Muzzin and left wing Milan Lucic.
What doesn’t show up on the scoresheet was that Kopitar won the draw in the offensive zone to start the play.
Lucic had two assists against the Red Wings and the other Kings goal, an empty-netter, came from Dwight King at 19:07. It was his third of the season.
The scratches were defenseman Jamie McBain and forwards Andy Andreoff and Jordan Nolan. It was only the second time Nolan has been a healthy scratch.
Kopitar, as usual, led the Kings forwards in ice time with 19 minutes 19 seconds. He had four shots on goal and was a plus-one.
Sutter also said recently that Kopitar has been showing more emotion this season.
“It’s no secret one of the things a lot of guys have tried to pick up is the leadership aspect and Kopi has always done that,” Martinez said. “I think he’s started to take it to another level.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the world. Just doesn’t get maybe as much credit because of where we are geographically.
“It’s awesome, the guy controlling the pace of the game. He can do everything. He’s fun to watch and even more fun to play with.”