His arms thrust high … and just like that, the weight seemed to lift off the shoulders of a jubilant Anze Kopitar after his second goal of the season.
Nothing quite like an overtime goal against the league’s best team to do the trick. The Kings center had broken a season-long scoring drought last week, but his game-winner on the power play at 2 minutes 32 seconds was in a different category, leading the Kings to a 4-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks in overtime on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Kopitar, who has scored three game-winners in overtime in his career, also set up the tying goal, by Justin Williams, in the third period, also on the power play at 12:21. Williams had a goal and an assist, Mike Richards added two assists and the other two Kings goals came from defenseman Drew Doughty and center Jarret Stoll, who also scored in Tuesday’s loss against the Coyotes.
Beyond the basics is another stunning statistic: The Kings have not lost when the game has extended beyond regulation. They’ve won four times in shootouts and twice in overtime.
This was a true measuring stick-type game. Fourteen games into a lengthy NHL season is as good a time for a legitimate test for the Kings as any occasion.
Presenting the Sharks: not quite this season’s Chicago Blackhawks, but close enough with just one loss in regulation in 12 games before Wednesday night.
The Kings were attempting to make it two losses in regulation in 13 games but stumbled early, regained their footing and finally equalized in the third period when Williams scored on the power play to make it 3-3.
“I think it’s no surprise it’s going to be a great game like that,” Stoll said in a TV interview after the game. “You could tell we were pushing and pushing.... Great shot. It was good to see. Kopi can find those holes. We found a way to get a win.”
Stoll also has started to find his scoring touch.
“It feels good to contribute and chip in.… We’re not going to win with one or two lines,” he said.
San Jose center Logan Couture set up the first goal and scored the Sharks’ third goal on the power play late in the second period. The other Sharks goals came from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski.
This was the first meeting between the teams since their electric playoff series in the Western Conference semifinals in late May. The Kings won that battle in seven games, clinching the series at Staples Center.
The Sharks went off to the lake, retooled and refreshed and have pretty much run the table in October, losing only once in regulation, at Boston on Oct. 24.
Somehow, it was fitting that Williams was the one to extend the game. After all, he was the playoff hero of Game 7, scoring twice in that one to send the Kings to the conference final.
That was only one of the few similarities to Game 7.
The Sharks and Kings had their share of October-type miscues. San Jose took two bench minors, including the one leading to the Williams goal.
And the Kings committed three offensive-zone penalties, and the last could have been costly. They had just tied the game when left wing Daniel Carcillo went off for boarding Couture at 14:30, one of his typical ill-advised adventures. But the Kings dug deep and killed off the penalty and managed to push the game into overtime.
These were the moments designed to create sleepless nights for coaches. Or, at the very least, sure to create many future video sessions for attentive players.