Kopitar scores four as Kings ground Jets in shootout
WINNIPEG — Anze Kopitar scored four goals in the Los Angeles Kings’ 6-5 come-from-behind shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, but head coach Todd McLellan thought his captain may have been shortchanged.
“He had the hot hand. Anything he shot had a chance,” McLellan said of the 17-year veteran forward. “Not only did he get the four, but he probably could have had six, so we’re really happy for him.
“Great leadership, stepping up and pulling us through at the back end of a trip when it doesn’t look real good. A lot of other guys followed him.”
The Jets led 2-0 after the first period and 5-3 following the second.
Los Angeles forward Gabriel Vilardi tied the game 5-5 with 4:06 remaining in the third period when he grabbed a loose puck after a Jet fell and fired it past Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck.
Adrian Kempe scored the only goal in the shootout.
"We’d like to be on the other side of things and play with the lead, but sometimes you’ve got to come from behind. It feels good,” Kopitar said.
Drew Doughty had a pair of assists and Pheonix Copley made 26 saves for the Kings (34-20-8), who ended a five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 mark.
Winnipeg all-star defenceman Josh Morrissey scored twice and added a pair of assists, the first four-point game of his career.
He also praised Kopitar.
“He looks the same as I remember watching him when I was a kid,” Morrissey said. “It’s pretty impressive that he’s able to play at that level. Unfortunately for us, he brought his A-game today.”
The Jets lost their fourth consecutive game (0-3-1), their first four-game losing streak of the season. Winnipeg is now 1-5-1 in its last seven outings.
Kevin Stenlund had a pair of goals and Kyle Connor also scored for the Jets (35-24-2). Mark Scheifele and Dylan DeMelo each contributed two assists.
Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots for Winnipeg, which ended a three-game homestand.
Jets head coach Rick Bowness liked his team's effort.
“A couple blown assignments, a couple fluky breaks, it goes right to the hottest player in the game,” Bowness said. “We competed hard tonight, we did.”
Morrissey registered his 12th goal of the season on a heads-up play in the first period.
Scheifele was at the side of the Los Angeles net, trying to jam the puck past Copley. As the puck slid into the crease, Morrissey raced in and banged it into the net at 15:52.
Blake Wheeler assisted on the goal, recording the 600th helper of his NHL career. He’s the 97th player in league history to reach the milestone.
Morrissey made it 2-0 just over a minute-and-a-half later when his blast from the point went high past Copley at 17:35.
Los Angeles got on the board 26 seconds into the second period.
Six seconds after Jets defenceman Neal Pionk was called for holding, Kevin Fiala sent a pass to Kopitar and he fired the puck by Hellebuyck for his 21st of the season.
Winnipeg responded with Connor’s 27th goal to make it 3-1, but Kopitar tied it by tipping in two goals.
First Kopitar tipped in an Alexander Edler point shot at 9:14, then did the same with a Doughty shot at 10:43.
Stenlund gave the Jets the 5-3 lead at 12:00, then scored short-handed six minutes later.
“We played a lot better than previous games,” Stenlund said. “We forechecked well, way better. We skated way better. So, we need to bring that the next game.”
Kopitar notched his fourth goal with a slap shot at 1:26 of the third to trim Winnipeg’s lead to 5-4.
CHEERS FOR THE NEW GUY
New Jets forward Nino Niederreiter, acquired in a trade last Saturday with the Nashville Predators, played his first game with Winnipeg and made a big impression with his fists.
With 1:51 left in the second period, Niederreiter checked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi hard into the boards. Kempe came to his defence and they started fighting to cheers from the crowd.
After Niederreiter sat in the penalty box for roughing and an illegal check to the head of Durzi, Nikolaj Ehlers skated to the box, smiled at his new teammate and tapped the glass with his glove.
Niederreiter played on a line with Ehlers and centre Adam Lowry. Lowry, playing in his 600th career game, filled the spot of Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was out with a lower-body injury.
Jets: Travel to Edmonton to take on the Oilers Friday night.
Kings: Begin a three-game homestand Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press