Game 54; 33-18-3
NEW YORK, N.Y. — They started strong but more importantly, they finished strong as the Los Angeles Kings came back late to upend the New York Rangers, winning in overtime by a 5-4 count. The win improves the silver-and-black to an astonishing 8-1 record in the extra frame as they improve to 2-1-0 on their current road swing.
On Thursday, Kevin Gravel made his NHL debut. On Friday, Peter Budaj made his season debut. The story on this night, however, was Anze Kopitar, who recorded his third-career hat-trick and first since March 2011. On this night, Kopitar’s three goals were especially instrumental as he scored 33 seconds into the game and with 30 seconds left in the game to force overtime.
In the extra frame, Tanner Pearson won it after being a healthy scratch for the last two, but there was plenty of exciting hockey prior to said tally.
After Kopitar opened the scoring from Drew Doughty and Milan Lucic, Marian Gaborik made it 2-0 at the 11:26 mark of the first, scoring on the power play from Alec Martinez. But the Rangers answered quickly.
Just 94 seconds after Gaborik’s goal, Viktor Stalberg beat Peter Budaj for his eighth. Then, 7:44 into the second, Derek Stepan scored an unassisted tally — his 10th — to tie the game. Mats Zuccarello then gave the Blueshirts the lead just 1:37 later. Suddenly, the Kings found themselves behind the 8-ball, but there was still plenty of hockey to be played.
With 4:14 remaining in the second, Anze Kopitar put his second of the evening past netminder Antti Raanta to tie the game once again. Late in the third, though, the Rangers took advantage of a Kings Delay of Game penalty as Zuccarello danced around Brayden McNabb to feed Kevin Hayes, who potted his ninth into a wide-open net to put New York out in front again.
It seemed as if the Rangers had won the battle, but the Kings fought until the bitter end and, with Budaj pulled for an extra skater, Kopitar sniped his third of the evening into the top corner to, once again, tie the contest as this one went into overtime.
In the extra frame, both clubs had their share of chances. Even Peter Budaj came up big late with a couple of big saves. That paved the way for Tanner Pearson, who sniped his seventh past Raanta on his off-wing — from Tyler Toffoli and Alec Martinez — to win it for Los Angeles.
Some bad news for the Kings in this one as Marian Gaborik suffered a lower-body collision with a Rangers forward and was forced to leave the game. He did not return.
As for Peter Budaj, he looked a bit rusty at times but had a decent night overall, stopping 24 saves including a few aforementioned key saves in overtime, earning his first win of the year.
As for Kopitar, he has been on fire since Christmas as he notched his 28th, 29th and 30th point since Dec. 26 en route to said victory.
Overall, Friday’s game was a good test of character for the Kings who had a strong start but fell behind before coming back to win. They will hope to continue their hard work on Sunday when they visit the Prudential Center to take on the New Jersey Devils for an early matinee.