LA Kings: Anze Kopitar, Better Game Management “A Big Focus”

Mar 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) warms up before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) warms up before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Following the LA Kings’ victory over Vegas on Sunday, Anze Kopitar discusses his team’s successes, including better game management.

Following their defeat on Friday night at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, the LA Kings were left feeling discouraged. As a result of the loss, the LA Kings remained five points out of a playoff spot. The next day, they fell to seven points out thanks to the Blues’ win in San Jose. Nevertheless, the LA Kings found themselves in a bit of trouble entering their Sunday afternoon game against Vegas. But, if there were any reason to let their recent setbacks deterred them, someone forgot to tell the LA Kings.

Unlike on Friday, the LA Kings came out strong in their Sunday matinee against their division rivals.

While the game was scoreless in the first, the LA Kings showed the Golden Knights — as well as their skeptics — that they could not only keep up with the best teams but outplay them as well. This was especially impressive given that defenseman Olli Maatta left the game early due to an upper-body injury. So, instead of having seven defensemen, as they did on Friday, the silver-and-black were forced to carry on with just five blueliners.

It did not matter.

The LA Kings had easily one of their best defensive games of the season on Sunday while Cal Petersen did the rest, making 41 saves en route to a 3-1 LA Kings victory. On the offensive side of things, Anze Kopitar was the most productive King on Sunday as he registered two assists.

Following his team’s win, Kopitar spoke with the media about the LA Kings’ better game management — something head coach Todd McLellan has stressed recently.

“Yeah, I think that was good today,” the LA Kings’ captain said. “That was a big focus coming in and I don’t think [the Golden Knights] got too many chances off our mistakes. You know, we obviously gave up a goal off our mistake, but we’ll learn from that and we’ll try to cut [the mistakes] down as much as we can.”

While Sunday’s end result was promising as far as minimal mistakes go, the LA Kings need to be more consistent with this. Kopitar wasn’t too worried, though, as he knows that, while this has not been an overnight process, the silver-and-black have gotten better in this area.

“Well, it’s a work in progress,” Kopitar admitted. “You know, some nights are better than others and we’re addressing them and kind of learning as we go on, and, [as] I said, we’ll try to cut them out as much as we can. It will happen. I mean, there [are] guys on the other teams that obviously are good players and will force turnovers, but we try to eliminate those as much as we can.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of obviously starting the game and then just kind of kept rolling, so– and eventually get the first goal and get the two-goal lead.”

As for Maatta’s early exit, while it did leave the LA Kings shorthanded on the back-end, the captain knew what needed to be done to keep his team focused, going on to compliment the defensive corps on a job well done.

“Yeah, I think [the responsibility] falls on the other five D-men,” the 31-year-old noted. “I thought they did a great job. I think the guys up front, we kind of made sure that we didn’t get them stuck out there for too long. So, they had a few longer shifts, but, you know, at the end of the day, you want to make sure that we’re helping out as much as you can and just kind of go from there, I guess.”

Another positive from Sunday’s win was the play of Jeff Carter.

After an ill-attempted offensive onslaught, the Golden Knights were finally able to get on the board when Tomas Nosek scored a weird one with just 3:27 remaining in regulation to cut the LA Kings’ lead in half. However, any anxiety caused by Vegas inching closer was quickly snuffed out as, just 55 seconds later, Jeff Carter regained his club’s two-goal lead by beating Marc-Andre Fleury on a breakaway.

The goal, his sixth of the season, was Carter’s first in eight games and it could not have come at a better time. Yet, while Carter’s best days may be behind him, the 36-year-old nonetheless has the ability to come through in clutch situations.

“That’s what we’re accustomed to see,” Kopitar said of Carter’s late contribution. “So, I think he was due and he’ll gladly take it tonight and hopefully, he can continue scoring for us.”

The LA Kings and their ever-loyal fanbase were certainly given a jolt of confidence following Sunday, but there is no rest as the silver-and-black travel to San Jose to take on the Sharks on Monday night.

While there is no word yet regarding the severity of Olli Maatta’s injury, Anze Kopitar the LA Kings will carry on as they hope their first trip to SAP Center this season will result in inching closer to a playoff spot.