Kings’ life without Anze Kopitar begins with a victory
From Edmonton, Canada
The Kings’ 2-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday provided a blueprint for their final six regular season games and however long they last in the playoffs.
Without the inventiveness of forwards Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, the Kings on Tuesday relied on grit and defense. They killed both penalties called against them, created scoring chances through hard work rather than sleight of hand and got solid goaltending from Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 32 shots for his third shutout this season.
Add two assists by Trevor Lewis, who has had a hand in each of the team’s last four goals since being moved up from the fourth line, and it was a solid effort that produced the Kings’ fourth straight triumph and standings points for the 10th time in 11 games.
“We lost probably two of our most creative offensive players and it’s certainly going to take away from our ability to create offense. We’re going to have to grind games out a little more,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
“We’re a good defensive team and that’s going to have to remain a constant for us to have a chance to win games. It’s going to have to be like this the rest of the way for us to give ourselves a chance.”
Lewis set up Dustin Brown twice in the second period as the Kings swept the season series from the Oilers, who are winless in their last 10 games. The Kings have benefitted from playing non-contenders in their last two games—they beat Colorado on Saturday—but they’re more concerned with their own game and they’ve liked what they’ve seen.
They stayed fifth in the West because Phoenix beat Dallas in a shootout but moved seven points ahead of ninth-place Dallas and solidified their playoff chances.
“I think it answered a lot of questions to ourselves as far as what style, who we are, what we have to do,” Coach Terry Murray said. “Guys really don’t have to do anything extraordinary — just go play the game the right way and things will fall in place.”
Lewis set up Brown at 5:11 of the second period with a fine pass from the left side of the slot and through the crease. With Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin by the left post, Brown had half an empty net and didn’t miss.
Brown scored again at 14:56, from short range, after Lewis recovered a turnover by Edmonton’s Ryan O’Marra.
“I’m getting some bounces now and Brownie got open for me a couple times tonight,” Lewis said. “I just want to keep going and I’m excited for the challenge.”
Brown was happier for Lewis’ success than his own.
“He’s been under the radar on the offensive side of things because he’s in that fourth-line center role,” Brown said. “He has the ability to make plays out there, but at the same time he’s looked upon as one of those players who probably can’t make too many mistakes. Now he’s getting in on offense and getting more minutes. He has the skill to play at that level.”
The Kings did a lot of little things right. Jarret Stoll, awarded the alternate captain’s A that had been worn by Kopitar, won 70% of his faceoffs. They didn’t give up many prime scoring chances to the speedy Oilers and they actually got some movement — though no goals — in four power-play attempts.
They still have a long ways to go, but so far, so good.
“It was only our first game, but I think guys are really willing to pay a price and block some shots and we have to play our system,” Bernier said of life without Kopitar. “If we play our system I think anyone can play on our team.”
They played as a determined team Tuesday. “I think we’ll have to do the same thing until the end,” Bernier said.
If they can pull it off, the end might not be quite as soon as it appeared when Williams and Kopitar went down.
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