It only took 33 seconds for Anze Kopitar to open the scoring for the Los Angeles Kings. After skating from below the goal line, the defense of the New York Rangers failed to take Kopitar seriously. This gave him time to spin and pick his shot on Antti Raanta. One shot into the game and the Kings were up 1-0.
The Kings established their forecheck early, and their quickness to pucks and physicality frustrated the Rangers' ability to ever clear the zone. At times, it was the most Kings-like game we've seen from them in a good while. It was certainly easy to forget that this was a back to back game in addition to being their third game in four days. Constant shot pressure rewarded them with a power play when Marc Staal put the puck over the glass trying to relieve the beleaguered defense.
The penalty brought one of the most effective power plays onto the ice. While it may be hard for Kings fans to grasp, the Kings have materialized into a top five power play unit, most recently exemplified by converting all three power plays against the Bruins three days prior. This power play would prove no different when the Rangers again seemed content to give a shooter way too much space. If Kopitar is deadly with the puck when left alone, then Marian Gaborik is a skating plague. He picked his shot as well, and the Kings were up two goals halfway into the first.
It was a nice turn of events for Gaborik, who had been struggling recently as well. Unfortunately, things would turn sour again when he made leg on leg contact with Dominic Moore. He appeared to have potentially hyper-extended the knee and was seen leaving MSG on crutches. Gaborik has a reputation for being injury prone, but let's hope it's merely a precautionary measure.
News only got worse for the Kings as the Rangers went on to score three unanswered goals. Brayden McNabb seemed to have a perpetual rain cloud hanging over his head. The first Rangers goal was made possible when he fell down along the boards and took himself out of the play. He was also on the ice for the next goal, even though the blame isn't solely his own.
McNabb's bad night would culminate later in the game when the Rangers capitalized on their first and only power play in the third period (nice discipline for once, Kings!) He simply underestimated the strength of the small Kevin Hayes for the Rangers' second go ahead goal.who skated in tight and setup
Fortunately, we can now get back to talking about Anze Kopitar again. His second goal was created by the patience of Milan Lucic when a turnover allowed him to wait for Kopitar to get perfect position for a simple re-direct down low. Kopitar wasn't done, either. The Kings once again found themselves down late on the road, causing Peter Budaj to vacate his net in the closing two minutes. Kopitar stole the game back for the Kings with a nice bank job off of the Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein. The Kings were once again headed to overtime.
It's been a while since we talked about Tanner Pearson in a recap, hasn't it? In fact, he was scratched in favor of Andy Andreoff and Kyle Clifford last game. A note-worthy piece of puck-watching in the previous game relieved Andreoff of his spot on the bench, and Tanner Pearson certainly seized the opportunity. His speed to pucks was hamstringing the Rangers' ability to generate zone exits all night, in fact.
Three minutes into overtime, we'd be reminded of his speed one more time. Alec Martinez held the puck in the Kings' zone and waited for Pearson to generate speed through the neutral zone, hitting him in stride and springing him on an uncontested breakaway. A little bit of misdirection and Tanner beat Raanta clearly to win it for the Kings.
It was a game of extreme highs and lows for the Kings. Marian Gaborik seemed his old self, only to get injured. Anze Kopitar was a spectacle, earning his first hat trick since 2011, yet the scoring was only needed thanks in large part to the defensive lapses of Brayden McNabb. It was certainly an indicator of why the Kings may be looking for an extra defenseman at the deadline, only to realize they may be looking for a forward very soon.
The Kings won against a team that had won five straight at home. It's not that hard to forget the bad and pretend we're all on the receiving end of a post-goal hug from Anze Kopitar. The Kings won and bolstered their lead in the pacific division.