Phoenix Coyotes left wing David Moss, left, tries to get a shot in against Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, right, as defenseman Robyn Regehr helps defend during the first period of their NHL hockey game on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Friday, October 25, 2013 2:10 am
LA Kings blow 4-goal lead, still beat Phoenix 7-4
By GREG BEACHAMAP Sports Writer
The Kings already knew what was going wrong, and Mike Richards made sure they got the chance to fix it.
Dwight King had his first career three-goal game, Richards scored the tiebreaking goal on a short-handed breakaway early in the third period, and the Kings pulled out a 7-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Anze Kopitar ended his 26-game, regular-season goal drought, and King scored twice during a four-goal first period for the Kings, who appeared to be cruising toward an impressive victory before a few lapses erased all that hard work.
Coach Darryl Sutter's timeout provided a chance for the Kings to gather themselves, and they roared to their sixth win in eight games.
"Seven goals - that's the first time since I've been here that we put up that big of a number," said King, who had never scored more than one goal in his first 90 NHL games. "We got back to how we play. With the timeout, you kind of refocus, go back to the basics, calm yourself down a bit and get back to playing the game."
Jordan Nolan and Matt Frattin also scored for Los Angeles, Kopitar had three points, and Jonathan Quick made 24 saves.
The back-and-forth game looked nothing like most matchups in a divisional rivalry usually dominated by defense and hard hitting. There were some big hits, but the goalies took most of the abuse.
"Good thing they didn't kick a field goal on the last play of the game," Sutter said.
Mike Smith stopped 11 shots in the first period before Thomas Greiss replaced him for the Coyotes. The German backup stopped 20 shots in just his third appearance of the season.
The Kings responded to a home loss to Calgary three days earlier with a stellar start, but then had to hang on before King completed his hat trick on an empty-net goal with 21.1 seconds to play.
"It was up and down, but that's the challenge for us, always has been," Kopitar said. "We always have good spurts, and tonight the first period was obviously a really good one, but we have to maintain that."
Kopitar ended his goal drought just 42 seconds into the game, beating Smith with a quick shot from the slot during a power play.
Kopitar has been the Kings' leading scorer in each of the past six seasons, but he failed to score a goal in the final 16 games of last season before managing just three playoff goals during the defending Stanley Cup champions' run to the Western Conference finals.
Martin Hanzal scored two goals and captain Shane Doan tied it with 17:10 to play for the Coyotes, who had earned a point in seven consecutive games.
"We had the momentum after getting back into the game," Doan said. "Richards made a great play to give them the lead and the momentum back, and we didn't have anyone to do that back to them. As a team, we've got to learn to handle success so much better than we handle it at times."
Jeff Halpern also scored in Phoenix's first regulation loss since Oct. 8.
Nolan, a healthy scratch in the Kings' last game, pushed the first-period lead to 3-0 before King redirected a long shot by Robyn Regehr for Los Angeles' highest-scoring first period since Dec. 18, 2010.
"I was worried about our energy before we came into the game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "The last couple of days, I don't know if it was physical or mental fatigue, but you could tell our group was dragging a little bit. We tried to give them a day off yesterday, but obviously we came out flat tonight."
Phoenix awoke midway through the second period when Halpern easily tapped home a tumbling shot through traffic for his first goal of the season. Hanzal scored moments later, slyly banking a backhand off Quick from behind the goal line.
Hanzal silenced Staples Center early in the third period when he tipped home Keith Yandle's shot on a power play. Doan, who missed the Coyotes' previous game, evened it 59 seconds later with a long shot through traffic.
But Richards put the Kings back ahead 1:29 later, taking the puck away from Radim Vrbata at mid-ice to create a two-man breakaway. The veteran center beat Greiss low to end his goal drought of 13 regular-season games.
Frattin added his first goal with his new team later in the period. The forward was the main return from the Kings' trade of goalie Jonathan Bernier to Toronto.
NOTES: Phoenix lost D Rostislav Klesla to a lower-body injury early in the game. The team had no immediate update on his condition. ... Kopitar has 47 career points against Phoenix, his highest total against any opponent. ... Richards hadn't scored a short-handed goal since March 30, 2012.