Anze Kopitar leads Los Angeles Kings' rally past New York Rangers

By Dave Lozo, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 13, 2016 at 1:06 AM
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NEW YORK -- Coming off a three-goal loss 24 hours earlier and playing without a No. 1 goaltender, the Los Angeles Kings needed a big performance from someone as they played their third road game in four nights.

What they got was center Anze Kopitar's best game of the season.

The Kings' captain completed his first hat trick in five years by tying the game with 29.7 seconds remaining in regulation, then left winger Tanner Pearson scored with 1:50 remaining in overtime to win 5-4 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night and snap the New York Rangers' five-game winning streak.

Kopitar's first goal opened the scoring 33 seconds into the game, then he scored late in the second and third periods to pull the Kings into ties. It wasn't an individual performance -- his line with left winger Milan Lucic (two assists) and right winger Dustin Brown (one assist, five shots) dominated all night.

"That's Kopi in a nutshell," said Pearson, who was playing his first game since Feb. 4 as he sat as a healthy scratch. "You look at his second goal, Brown on the forecheck, he turns the puck over to Lucic and he makes a nice pass. It's an all-around thing for that line too."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't spread the praise around as much, saying, "It was Kopi's best game of the season, that's for sure. Not because he scored three goals, but it was best game all around in terms of using his whole package. He was a pretty dominant player."

Right winger Marian Gaborik gave the Kings a 2-0 lead at 11:26 of the first period but left for good about five minutes later with a lower-body injury. He needed help getting off the ice and could not put any weight on his left leg following a knee-to-knee collision with Rangers center Dominic Moore. The Kings had no update on his status following the game.

The Rangers (31-18-6) responded with three consecutive goals across the first two periods from left winger Viktor Stalberg, center Derek Stepan and right winger Mats Zuccarello and appeared to be in control as the minutes ticked away in the second period. But a turnover by left winger J.T. Miller led to a tic-tac-toe goal from Brown to Lucic to Kopitar that sent the game to the third period tied at 3.

When left winger Kevin Hayes made it 4-3 by scoring the Rangers' third power-play goal in 19 games with 4:46 remaining, it appeared as though this would be their night. But with goaltender Peter Budaj on the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute, Kopitar's long shot bounced off the body of Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein and past goaltender Antti Raanta to send the game to 3-on-3 sudden death.

"We were down 2-0 and fought back, took the lead," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They tied it up in the second period off a turnover. We got the lead on a power play. They didn't get a lot of looks, but they play a heavy, tight game. But I thought we battled back -- we take a point and get ready for the next one."

Budaj was making his first NHL appearance since May 2014, when he relieved an injured Carey Price as a member of the Montreal Canadiens during Game 1 the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers. He wasn't sharp Friday but he was good enough, making 24 saves, including a breakaway stop on center Derick Brassard in overtime.

"I should have played the puck," said Budaj, who sat back as Brassard chased a puck the goaltender probably could have reached first. "I was able to make the save. Guys battled for me and I'm very thankful. It's a nice feeling to be back and get a 'W' for our team."

Raanta, on the other side, was making just his second start in nearly two months and wasn't at his best, either. He allowed five goals on 34 shots but should see another start in the coming weeks.

"I don't know what's wrong right now but I feel like I'm there but the reaction isn't," Raanta said. "It's hard to explain it. You just try to make the save but when you just don't have the feeling in your head and in your body, it's pretty hard."

The Kings (33-18-3) are now 8-0-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.

"If you lose the first one," Sutter said, "you sure as (heck) better be putting it all in to win the second one."

NOTES: Kings G Peter Budaj made the start as G Jonathan Quick missed his second straight game after a collision in Boston on Tuesday. ... Kings D Matt Greene (upper body) has not played since Oct. 13. ... Rangers LW Rick Nash missed his ninth straight game with a bone bruise in his leg. .... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh (concussion) missed his third straight game. ... Rangers G Antti Raanta made his first start since Jan. 17 and second start since leaving a game Dec. 17 with a concussion.

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