Anze Kopitar has been one of the Los Angeles Kings’ most durable and productive players over the past 10 seasons, which is why they signed him to an $80-million, eight-year contract last month.
Kopitar has helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups in the last four seasons, and he appears poised to lead them to another. He scored his team-high 18th goal of the season on a power play Tuesday night for the go-ahead score in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
The 28-year-old centre, who sat out Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win at Nashville because of a lower-body injury, got his fifth game-winner at 17:27 of the second from short range while Flames captain Mark Giordano was serving a holding penalty.
“We did grind it out,” Kopitar said. “Maybe we didn’t play our best game, but it’s that time of year where it doesn’t really matter, as long as you get the two points. We certainly realize there’s some room for improvement, but we have a pretty nice homestand now. We just need to keep building momentum at home and taking care of business.”
Los Angeles defenceman Luke Schenn also scored and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves, helping the Kings increase their Pacific Division lead to four points over the idle Anaheim Ducks. The only puck that got past him was a power-play goal by Sean Monahan.
Joni Ortio stopped 35 shots for the Flames in his first NHL start since Oct. 30, when Montreal beat him 6-2. Calgary recalled him from the minors to back up Jonas Hiller after Karri Ramo’s season-ending knee injury on Feb. 11 at San Jose.
“Ort played real well for us. He kept us in the game early and he made some big stops,” Monahan said. “When your goalie plays like that, those are the games you should win for him. Unfortunately, tonight they came out on top.”
Ortio stopped the first 20 shots he faced before Schenn opened the scoring at 9:41 of the middle period with his fourth goal of the season and second since joining the Kings along with Vincent Lecavalier in a trade from Philadelphia on Jan. 6.
Schenn took a drop pass from Tanner Pearson along the right boards, then sent a wrist shot along the ice to beat Ortio through a screen with Lecavalier and Giordano standing in front of the net.
“The puck just sort of came rolling up the wall there. I just tried to get it off quick and surprise the goalie,” Schenn said. “I knew there was traffic in front and it was kind of a lucky shot and it found a way through. You definitely take those when they come.”
Monahan tied it at 11:56 of the period with his 18th goal, redirecting a perfect cross-ice centring feed from Jiri Hudler through Quick’s legs just 8 seconds after Kings defenceman Jake Muzzin was sent off for interference.
“We as a team played a pretty solid 60 minutes,” Ortio said. “We competed and competed and we never let up. There were a couple of bounces here and there that didn’t go our way, and I think that was the difference tonight.”
The Flames are 5-6-0 since defenceman Dennis Wideman began serving his 20-game suspension for knocking down linesman Don Henderson from behind on Jan. 27. The NHLPA’s second appeal of Wideman’s suspension will be heard by arbitrator James Oldham on Thursday and Friday in New York.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wideman’s punishment last week.
NOTES: Kopitar has missed only five of 413 regular-season and playoff games since the start of the 2011-12 season. ... Calgary is 3-22-2 when scoring fewer than three goals, and all the wins were decided in overtime. ... The Kings returned from a 3-3-1 road trip that included overtime wins against the Rangers and Predators. They began a nine-game stretch that includes one road game — 35 miles down the freeway in Anaheim on Sunday. ... Calgary allowed 27 goals over its previous six games. ... The Flames came in with the league’s second-worst conversion percentage on the power play (15.6) and the worst penalty-killing percentage (73.2). They have allowed 14 power-play goals over their last eight games. ... Ortio’s last victory in the NHL was against the Kings on Jan. 19, 2015, at Los Angeles.Report Typo/Error