FINAL – Kings 6, Jets 5 (SO) – Kopitar, Kempe, McLellan

The LA Kings cruised to a 6-5 shootout victory over Winnipeg on Tuesday night at the Canadian Life Center in Manitoba.

The Kings got four goals from forward Anze Kopitar in the win, while Gabe Vilardi scored the game-tying goal late in the third period and forward Adrian Kempe buried the game-winning goal in the shootout.

Winnipeg jumped out to an early two-goal advantage, thanks to a pair of goals from defenseman Josh Morrissey. First, after a point shot was deflected off the end boards and into the crease, Morrissey crashed in and converted from the scrum to open the scoring. Less than two minutes later, he buried his second goal of the period with a slap shot from the left circle, which went into his glove for his 12th goal of the season.

However, the Kings answered back through Kopitar, who got the visitors on the board with a power-play goal less than 60 seconds into the middle stanza. After an early minor penalty assessed to the Jets, the Kings set up Kopitar in the right circle, where he buried a one-timer for his 21st goal of the season and a 2-1 score.

However, the Jets pushed back to regain a two-goal advantage after the spurt. Forward Kyle Connor worked his way into the offensive zone, skated into the left circle and buried a shot high glove-side for his 27th goal of the season, second most on the team.

Kopitar tied the game with a pair of deflected efforts as he completed his hat trick at 10:17 of the second period. First, the captain drove the net and got a stick on defender Alex Edler’s shot from the left point, bringing the visitors back to a goal. The Kings tied it when Kopitar deflected a shot from defenseman Drew Doughty to complete the tenth-fastest hat trick in franchise history.

Forward Kevin Stenlund responded with a pair of goals of his own to give the Jets a 5-3 lead at the second break. Stenlund scored his fourth goal of the season 12 minutes into the middle stanza, when he shot a top blocker from the right side for a 4-3 advantage. He extended the lead to 5-3 with a shorthanded goal, as he picked off a pass from forward Adam Lowry and scored on a 2-on-1 rush to complete a six-goal stretch.

The visitors stormed back in the third to tie the game with a pair of goals to force overtime. First, Kopitar buried his fourth goal of the night to tie a single-game, career-high. Vilardi went on to tie the game in the final five minutes of regulation when he forced a turnover in the offensive zone, moved in alone on Hellebuyck and fired top shelf for the team’s fifth goal of the night.

After a scoreless overtime, the Kings got a shootout goal from Adrian Kempe and three saves from goaltender Pheonix Copley to secure the second point in the skills contest.

Hear from Kempe, Kopitar and head coach Todd McLellan after the win.

Adrian Kempe

Anze Kopitar
On a big night and a big win on the road
Yes, it was a big win. I’m obviously happy to contribute, but to show the character of being down several times, coming back and finally winning in the penalty shootout, those are two very big points for us.

At the team’s comfort level even when they are behind in the third
We’d like to be on the other side of things and play with a lead, but sometimes you have to come from behind to win and that feels good.

About the physical nature of tonight’s match
We know they’re a physical team coming in and it’s that time of year. Everyone plays at their best, plays physically with a lot of emotion, and we had to match them.

Todd McLellan
About Anze Kopitar’s performance in tonight’s game
The hot hand, every shot had a chance, he had four, but he could have had six, so we’re very happy for him. Good leadership steps up and pulls us through at the back end of a trip when things don’t look good. Many other boys followed him. I’m still disappointed with some of our players, believe it or not. We’re going to have that kind of battle, we just don’t have enough guys going right now. That needs to change for the next 20 games.

At the team’s comfort level even under 5-3 in the third period
Well, the only thing we believe is that we can score, which is a nice change from previous years. Keeping the puck out of the net is still a challenge for us, for various reasons, and we’re going to continue to work on it. For me, if you’re not scoring regularly, you’ve got to do some other things and do them well, do them consistently, night in and night out.

If the problems he saw tonight were the same as the game in New York
Something, yes, it was different, but the same. You know, I keep going back to a group of players and I’ll deal with that, but we need more from them. We need more.

On Gabe Vilardi’s play since returning from injury
I think he will get better. I will say that I thought he skated better before the injury, that’s natural. You are free for so long, plus the game has become faster. I think some of the guys that have come back from injury, even Trevor Moore when he came back, it’s faster, it’s March hockey now, it’s not November or December hockey. It’s fast and the games are moving and you have to be able to move. Gabe has done the best job with the injured guys coming back and has been able to find their game the fastest.

Notes –
– Anze Kopitar (4-0-4) scored his second career four-goal game, matching his record for most goals in a single game (4-0=4, March 22, 2018 at COL). He is the second Kings runner to record a four-goal game this season (Adrian Kempe, 4-0=4, Feb. 11 vs. PIT) and the fifth different skater in Kings history to record multiple four-plus goal games under Kings. career (Marcel Dionne, Mike Murphy, Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille).
– Kopitar (35 years, 188 days) is the oldest skater in franchise history to have a four-goal game and the fourth oldest to have a hat trick. The only players older at the time of their hat trick are Luc Robitaille (39 years, 336 days on 19 January 2006) and Bob Nevin (36 years, 307 days on 19 January 1975; 36 years, 209 days) on 13 October 1974 ).
– Kopitar’s four-goal outing marked his 44th career multi-goal game, tying Charlie Simmer for sixth in franchise history. He also surpassed Wayne Gretzky (125) for the third most multi-point games in Kings history.
– Gabriel Vilardi scored his 19th goal of the year with the equalizer in the third period.
– Adrian Kempe scored his 12th career penalty goal, which also marked his second career game-winning penalty goal.
– Kevin Fiala extended his team-leading score to 64 (21-43-64) with an assist. Only six players have had more assists in their first season with the Kings: Wayne Gretzky (114 in 1988-89), Larry Murphy (60 in 1980-81), Jozef Stumpel (58 in 1997-98), Jason Allison (55 in 2001 -02), Marcel Dionne (54 in 1975-76) and Craig Conroy (44 in 2005-06).
– Drew Doughty (0-2-2) collected two assists for his 115th career multi-point game.
– Alex Iafallo skated in his 400th career NHL game, becoming the 24th active undrafted skater to accomplish the feat.

The Kings are scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles after tonight’s game and have a scheduled team off tomorrow.

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