A hat trick, two points against a division foe and...disappointment?
It was an odd night for the Kings, who dominated the first two periods against the Dallas Stars but were left feeling a bit empty after a 5-4 overtime victory Thursday night before 15,042 at Staples Center.
Certainly, two points felt better than one, and Michal Handzus allowed the Kings to breathe a collective sigh of relief when he scored 55 seconds into overtime to give the Kings the victory.
But it shouldn't have come to that. Anze Kopitar's first career hat trick, in the game's first 30 minutes, helped the Kings build a 4-1 lead after two periods, but the Stars owned Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the third period.
Dallas scored three third-period goals on seven shots, and tied the game on James Neal's second goal of the game, with 2:46 remaining. Earlier, the Stars scored two goals in less than two minutes to pull within 4-3.
Quick, recently designated the clear No. 1 goalie by coach Terry Murray, stopped 17 of 21 shots as the Kings narrowly improved to 3-1 at home this season.
``The goalie needs to be better,'' Murray said. ``Who's kidding who here? Everybody sees the puck going into the net, on shots where he's getting a clear look. He's going down early. He's starting to maybe guess a little bit in those situations, and he's just got to toughen up.
``He's got to suck it up and start to play better and get that little arrogance back, inner arrogance, that he had last year. When things went a little bad on him, with one particular goal, he tightened things up and became the goaltender that you say, `Oh man, this guy is going to be a great NHL goaltender.' That's what he has to get back to.''
If there's one King who deserves to have inner arrogance, it's Kopitar.
With the three points, Kopitar tied Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for the league lead with 16. Kopitar's eight goals have him one behind Ovechkin.
Kopitar scored 3:54 into the game, then scored two goals 2:38 apart in the second period, the second of which gave the Kings their 4-1 lead.
``It feels great,'' Kopitar said. ``It almost didn't feel great, the way the game ended, but we got two points and that's the most important thing I guess, right now. We have to look forward and maybe forget the last period of this one and just keep going forward.''
The Kings beat a Dallas team that played the previous night in Anaheim and started its backup goalie, Alex Auld, who made 26 saves.
But the Kings had some adversity of their own. Justin Williams sustained an undisclosed ``lower-body injury,'' according to Murray, at the morning skate and did not play Thursday night. Plus, there was the question of how Alexander Frolov would respond after being a healthy scratch in Monday's game.
Both issues turned out well for the Kings. Wayne Simmonds replaced Williams as the first-line right wing -- a suggestion, Murray said, made by general manager Dean Lombardi -- and had one goal and one assist. Frolov had a strong game and two assists, including a great pass that led to Simmonds' goal.
``Fro was good,'' Murray said. ``I thought he played good. He made a tremendous play on the goal to Simmonds, a great pass. I thought, overall, he was very strong on the puck. He tried to do something late in the game there, late in the third period, where he was just trying to take it over and get the winning goal. That's the kind of game that we have to see all the time.''
Kopitar gave the Kings an early lead with perhaps the Kings' most impressive goal of the young season, as he carried the puck up the right side. In the faceoff circle, Kopitar went around defenseman Stephane Robidas, then tucked the puck behind Auld 3:54 into the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Dustin Brown picked up his 200th career NHL point with the assist.
The Kings made it 2-0 off a nice play by Frolov, who intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, skated up the left side and made a perfect centering pass to Simmonds. Simmonds controlled the puck in front, went to his backhand and beat Auld with 4:23 left in the period.
The two-goal lead didn't last long. Just 37 seconds later, the Stars made it 2-1. Neal blocked Rob Scuderi's attempt to shoot the puck into the Stars' zone. Neal started a 3-on-1 break, kept the puck and beat Quick with a wrist shot.
Kopitar resumed his scoring binge 7:17 into the second period. Brown dropped the puck behind the net to Kopitar, who faked a centering pass, skated to the front and beat Auld with a backhand shot. Brown and Drew Doughty got assists.
Kopitar completed the hat trick just 2:38 later, when he skated to the high slot. His backhand wrist shot went through traffic and beat Auld at the 9:55 mark to give the Kings a 4-1 lead. But the Stars were just getting started.
``We talked to our guys tonight,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said, ``and we could have ended in first place in the (Pacific) division, and that’s what we wanted to do. I was pleased with the way we came back.
The Stars didn't go away though. Jamie Benn's goal, a high shot through traffic, beat Quick to make it 4-2 at the 6:58 mark of the third period, and the Stars scored just 1:32 later on a bad goal by Quick.
Mark Fistric's slap shot from just inside the blue line barely got off the ice, but it beat Quick cleanly to make the score 4-3 at the 8:30 mark, and Neal's second goal tied it with 2:46 remaining in the third.
``You don't want to give any team in your division a point,'' Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``Obviously they were not in the game and we let them back in it. It's just something that you can learn off. It's definitely a mistake on our part, letting those guys back in the game. It's too bad that we did it. Luckily, Zeus bailed us out with a goal.
``There are still a lot of things we have to adjust tomorrow at practice, from that third period, but at least you're coming in with a way better attitude than if they would have gotten two points. You take the positives out of it, as much as you can, but we still have a lot to do tomorrow.''
LAKINGS.COM'S NOTES Anze Kopitar?s hat trick was the first of his career. The last Kings hat trick was also against Dallas (Michal Handzus ? March 5, 2009). For a list of all-time Kings hat tricks, click here...Kopitar has 16 points in 10 games (8-8-16). It took him 20 games to get 16 points last season and 28 games to get eight goals last season. Kopitar is now tied with Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL lead in points (16)...Kopitar and Ryan Smyth have each had at least one point in nine of the Kings? 10 games...Dustin Brown earned his 200th career point with his first period assist. He has 24 points (11-13=24) in 33 games vs. Dallas (most against any opponent)...Handzus now has three game-winning goals this season. It was his fifth career overtime goal (third as a King, tying him for fifth all-time in franchise history)... Jonathan Quick has now started 50 of the last 60 Kings games (dating back to last season)...The Kings are now 6-1-1 in their last eight meetings with Dallas...The Kings have scored 17 goals in their last three home games...Through 10 games last season the Kings were 3-6-1 (4-6-0 in 2007-08 and 3-5-2 in 2006-07)...Celebs spotted in the stands: Denise Richards, star of Wild Things; Groundhog Day's Andie MacDowell; Maxim cover girl Tricia Helfer and Australian celebrities Chantelle Delaney (pop star) & Jess Sinclair (Aussie Rules Football Star).
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