The Kings have been waiting for Anze Kopitar to show the form that he demonstrated in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes probably wish he had waited a little bit longer for his return to the scoresheet.
One week after the season opener, the defending champs finally picked up their first win of the new season thanks to two goals from Kopitar and an offense that at last found their groove (at even strength, at least). Jake Muzzin scored his first NHL goal in the third period to give the Kings some breathing room, and they held on despite another panicked final minute - which would have been much scarier if not for an extremely quick whistle.
For the second straight game, the first period was scoreless, and the Kings missed opportunities on the power play. The Coyotes picked up simultaneous roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but the Kings were only able to muster one shot on goal on the ensuing power play; their failure to make LaBarbera work was amplified by Zbynek Michalek, who blocked three shots in two minutes. The Kings would go 0-for-4 on the night, certainly leaving something for Darryl Sutter and the coaches to work on. LA committed a too-many-men penalty near the end of the period, bringing back a number of awful memories, but the Kings killed the penalty and made it to the break.
The first line put the Kings ahead just one minute into the second period. Justin Williams and Dustin Brown forced a turnover after the Coyotes won a draw in their own zone, and Brown found Kopitar with a lot of room in front. Kopitar stickhandled once and beat Jason LaBarbera on the blocker side. However, the Coyotes got a 2-minute 5-on-3 of their own, and Quick was beaten by the Coyotes' fifth shot on goal of the two-man advantage. Mikkel Boedker scored on a rebound, immediately after Oliver Ekman-Larsson rung a wrist shot off the post.
Rather than falling flat, though, the Kings capitalized on another giveaway by Phoenix a minute later. Jacob Muzzin intercepted a neutral-zone pass, and Justin Williams was able to drive all the way to the goal line before delivering a perfect saucer pass to Kopitar. Kopitar tapped in just before the net was knocked off its moorings, and the Kings had a 2-0 lead. After LaBarbera and Quick exchanged stunning pad saves midway through the second, Jeff Carter added a third goal off of a rebound from Simon Gagne's deflected shot. David Moss appeared to have gotten the goal right back for the Coyotes on a redirection, but the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference.
The two-goal lead held up until the third, when Shane Doan scored just 22 seconds into the third period. The Coyotes forced the puck freee behind the goal line, and Doan one-timed the loose puck from the slot. But the Kings were able to restore their advantage as Jake Muzzin scored his first goal in the NHL. Scoring machine Kyle Clifford did some nice work to get the puck to Muzzin on the blue line, and his wrist shot from 60 feet tipped off LaBarbera's glove on the way into the net.
The fans did get some of what they came for when Shane Doan hit Dustin Brown hard against the boards with five minutes left. Doan then responded to Mike Richards' request to drop the gloves, essentially knocking both players out of the rest of the game. Regardless, the Coyotes continued to press, and the Kings benefited from a quick whistle with under a minute left. Referee Tim Peel blew the play dead with the puck trickling out behind Jonathan Quick, and Radim Vrbata's tap-in did not count; yes, it was a brutal call, and the locals had every right to boo. Thankfully, no debris on the ice tonight, and no follow-up goal; the Kings soon secured their first victory of 2013.
So the Kings move to 1-2-1, pass the Coyotes for fourth place (!) in the division, end the road trip with a W, and get their top line back on track. Don't break out the champagne, but it's always good to get back in the win column.