LA Kings: Matt Luff better for Anze Kopitar’s guidance

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Matt Luff scored the game-tying goal in the LA Kings comeback victory on Saturday. He spoke with the media following the game.

What started out as another inauspicious start for the LA Kings turned to success as the silver-and-black, with a full showcase of resilience and character, fought back to defeat the St. Louis Blues. After falling behind 3-0 in the first, the LA Kings got on the board before the period was through, before scoring two quick tallies late in the second to tie the game.

That equalizer was scored by Matt Luff, who celebrated his first goal since December 12, 2019.

The LA Kings ultimately forced overtime before winning on a beautiful three-on-one breakaway finished by Adrian Kempe. But, Matt Luff was still buzzing over his first goal of the season and, following Saturday’s victory, spoke with the media about it.

“Yeah, I mean, just anytime you can help contribute, especially a comeback win like this one, is huge,” Luff stressed. “I mean, I think it just speaks to our team’s character being down what we were and coming back and winning. I mean, any time I can get back in the lineup and produce and help the team out in any way, whether it’s just a solid couple shifts here and there, but I mean, just to get wins, it’s nice to be in the lineup.”

As for that equalizer, Luff took the media through the moments leading up to it, which resulted in trusting his own instincts.

“The funny thing was when I gave it [Kopitar] him there […] and said that I should go change for Brownie and then something in my head was, ‘Just do a little butt-and-hook,’ and there was a bit of a hole and, I mean, luckily it worked out,” a reflective Luff elaborated. “So, I mean, pretty cool to say Anze Kopitar assists one of my goals when all is said and done. But, I mean, it’s just a huge goal, and I think you notice it’s just huge.”

Speaking of Kopitar, his helper put him in sole possession of third on the LA Kings’ all-time assists list, moving past Dave Taylor for No. 639. Additionally, Kopitar’s assist capped off a three-point night for the veteran after scoring the first two LA Kings goals of the evening. No. 11 also sits just 22 points shy of 1,000 for his career.

While his point productive may be impressive in itself, though, Kopitar’s experience and leadership have helped mold him into a mentor for the younger LA Kings players. This goes especially for Matt Luff, who emphasized just how big an impact the Slovenian has had on his game thus far.

“He just does so much on and off-ice for us,” the 23-year-old noted. “He’s just one of those guys who always turn to, and he’s just one of the guys that’s been helping me a lot through this past year-and-a-bit and just making sure I’m confident. I mean, what he does just off the ice for us young guys is huge. How he isn’t recognized […], I think most people aren’t really paying attention to hockey.

“To me, a Kopitar is a Hall-of-Famer through it all. I think for being everything for the Kings, he’s like probably the best 10-foot player in the game next to a couple other guys, but I mean, I think if you look up and down at the league, I don’t think any team wouldn’t want him as your number-one center.”

Playing in just his seventh game of the season, Matt Luff has not had the best of luck as far as being a consistent presence in the lineup goes. A victim, if you will, of making room for other talent, Luff has been on the outside looking in for much of the campaign thus far. The native of Oakville, Ont., however, remains undeterred, committed to controlling only what he can control.

As for his goal on Saturday, Luff wasn’t the only one feeling good about it.

“Everybody, to a man, was happy for Luffer,” head coach Todd McLellan said following Saturday’s victory. “He’s played so much better this season, yet he’s been a victim of some circumstances that aren’t even under his control.

“To see him come in and score a real big goal at the end of the period gave us a big lift, and the whole bench was excited for him.”

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The 2020-21 season has certainly been one which has forced Matt Luff to work hard than he ever had as a professional hockey player, but the former Hamilton Bulldog has been up for the challenge time and time again. His goal to give the LA Kings such a big boost is certainly an auspicious start to what could be, but Matt Luff, especially with Anze Kopitar’s guidance, is only focusing on, to use an old cliche, taking it one game at a time.