Kopitar’s late hat trick goal sets up Kings’ OT win

Anze Kopitar had a hat trick and Tanner Pearson scored the game-winner in overtime as the Kings beat the Rangers 5-4.

NEW YORK — The Los Angeles Kings often work overtime. And it’s paying off for them in a big way.

Tanner Pearson’s goal with 1:50 left in the extra period powered the Kings to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Anze Kopitar recorded a hat trick and Marian Gaborik added a goal for Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles, which has won three of its last five. The Kings (33-18-3) are 8-1 in the NHL’s newfangled 3-on-3 overtime format, and 2-2 in shootouts.

“We’ve had good luck 3-on-3,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “Our record is right there and that is probably why we are in a playoff spot.”

Peter Budaj made 24 saves in his season debut start. Budaj, who spent the season with the Kings' AHL farm team in Ontario, California, last played in the NHL on May 17, 2014, when he replaced injured Montreal Canadiens starting goaltender Carey Price in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Budaj allowed three goals on eight shots in that one, a 7-2 Rangers win.

``It was very nice to come back,'' Budaj said of his call-up. ``I was very excited.

``I don't think it could be better than that.''

Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello each finished with a goal and an assist for New York, which lost for the first time since Feb. 2. Viktor Stalberg and Derek Stepan also scored for the Rangers. Antti Raanta stopped 29 of 34 shots in his first start since Jan. 17.

``I was really nervous the first couple periods,'' said Raanta, who allowed three goals on 21 shots in the first two periods before making 11 saves in the third and overtime. ``I couldn't play my own game. I was moving too much so I wasn't set any time the shot was coming.''

Pearson's off-wing goal capped a wild game in which the teams traded the lead throughout.

Trailing 4-3 with 30 seconds left in regulation, Kopitar completed his third NHL hat trick by whipping a shot from the right side which ricocheted off of Kevin Klein.

Kopitar's third goal was a gut punch for the Rangers, who appeared headed for their fifth straight win.

With Alec Martinez serving a delay of game penalty, Hayes finished off

Zuccarello's feed to give New York its second and final lead of the game at 15:14 of the third. The sequence began with Zuccarello carrying the puck toward the slot before feathering a pass that Hayes one-timed for his ninth of the season.

``We battled back,'' New York coach Alain Vigneault said. ``We (will) take (the) point.''

Los Angeles backed Budaj in the first period as Kopitar and Gaborik scored 10:53 apart to stake the Kings to a 2-0 lead.

Kopitar opened the scoring with his 14th of the season 33 seconds into the game with a snap shot from the slot, and Gaborik pushed the lead to 2-0 with his 12th of the season on the power play at 11:26.

``Definitely the start we wanted (and) a bit of a letdown for them,'' Kopitar said. ``They didn't get the start that they wanted.''

New York halved the deficit on Stalberg's eighth of the season 1:34 after Gaborik's goal, and the teams went into the first intermission with the Kings leading 2-1.

In the second period, the Rangers showed the Kings they can score in a hurry.

Stepan drew the game even with his 10th of the season 7:44 into second. The New York centre forced a turnover in the offensive zone before curling toward the middle of the ice and firing a shot for the unassisted goal.

Just 1:37 later, Zuccarello pinballed a shot off Budaj to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Zuccarello's goal was his team-leading 19th of the season.

New York's advantage didn't last.

``When your team shows no quit, it's a big positive,'' Keith Yandle said.

Kopitar scored his second of the game at 15:46 of the period, to conclude a sequence which began with Rangers centre J.T. Miller turning the puck over in the defensive zone following a hit from Brayden McNabb.

NOTES: Los Angeles G Jonathan Quick missed his second straight game with a lower body injury, suffered at the end of the Kings' 9-2 win over the Bruins in Boston on Feb. 9. ... New York's Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash sat out due to injuries. McDonagh (concussion) has missed New York's last three games, while Nash (bruised bone in his left leg) hasn't played since Jan. 22, a stretch of eight games. ... Los Angeles scratched Jamie McBain, Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff. ... Dan Girardi became the fifth defenceman and the 11th player overall to play in 700 games for the Rangers. ... Among the 18,006 in attendance were New York Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas and New York Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarett.