The Kings were eager to talk all about Kopitar after their star centre turned in a dominant four-point effort against Detroit.
“After the first period, I think he took over the game,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think that was obvious from where I was standing.”
Kopitar had a power-play goal and three assists, and Alec Martinez scored the tiebreaking power-play goal early in the third period of the Kings’ seventh win in nine games, 4-2 over the Red Wings on Monday night.
Kopitar had his second three-point game in what started out as an up-and-down season for Los Angeles’ top-line centre. He tied it late in the second period before helping to set up Martinez’s go-ahead goal as the Kings rallied to beat Detroit for just the second time in seven meetings.
“I think (Kopitar) is one of the best players in the world, and maybe he doesn’t get as much credit because of where we are geographically,” Martinez said.
Tyler Toffoli scored his 20th goal and Jonathan Quick made 25 saves as the Kings pushed their Pacific Division lead to 11 points with a gritty win over the Red Wings, whose four-game winning streak ended during Kopitar’s second four-point game since the holiday break.
“I feel pretty good,” Kopitar said with that shrug. “Even before the Christmas break, we were playing pretty well. It’s just about building momentum, putting winning streaks together (and) most importantly not losing two games in a row.”
Indeed, the Kings have lost two straight games in regulation just once since mid-November.
Milan Lucic had two assists and Dwight King added an empty-net goal for the Kings. They have earned 15 points in nine games since Christmas, and their reward is a four-day break before their next game against Ottawa.
“Overall, I think we played a pretty solid road game,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “When you play against a team like that, there’s just not a lot of quality chances. There are just ugly chances.”
Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots after getting pulled from his previous two starts, but the former starter remained winless in six appearances since Dec. 3. He hasn’t won a road game since Nov. 21.
“I felt so-so,” Howard said. “It was just a complete battle out there. I was trying to the best of my ability to find pucks and to make saves for the guys, but I came up short. I expect and demand a lot of myself, and that was not a good performance. The only way to get better and in game shape is by playing, and in order to do that, you’ve got to perform. So we’ll see the next time I get a start.”
Toffoli scored 2:59 in, securing the second 20-goal season of his young career with 40 games left.
Tatar evened it late in the period, and Marchenko followed up 2 1/2 minutes later with a long shot past Quick. Marchenko’s goal was his first in 36 games this season and the second of the Russian defenceman’s NHL career.
Kopitar evened it late in the second with a long shot past Lucic’s screen. He hadn’t scored goals in back-to-back games since late October.
Martinez then ended a 14-game goal drought with a long shot past Howard just 1:28 into the third for the Michigan native’s fifth goal of the season.
NOTES: Detroit D Kyle Quincey returned from a 35-game absence with an ankle injury. He hadn’t played since Oct. 23. … Red Wings LW Drew Miller headed home to Detroit after the club put him on long-term injured reserve with a torn meniscus in his knee. Miller was injured Sunday night at Anaheim in his second game back from a 14-game absence with a broken jaw. … Vincent Lecavalier took on more responsibility in his third game for the Kings, winning 13 of his 16 faceoffs while centring a line with Stanley Cup-winning veterans Trevor Lewis and Dwight King.