Not that long ago, Kings center Anze Kopitar talked about looking forward to a ‘healthy competition’ this season with Jeff Carter. At that point, they were tied for the team scoring lead – both having seven points, but Carter led in goals (six to four).
Since then, it’s been nearly dizzying watching Carter score at a breakneck pace. And Kopitar acknowledged as much when asked about the points race following Tuesday night’s game vs. the St. Louis Blues.
“That ship has sailed I think,” he deadpanned. “He’s got what? 15 now? You know, I’ll let him beat me, but I’ll try to keep pace as much as I can.”
True to his word, Kopitar did try to keep pace - scoring the Kings sixth goal of the game, and fourth marker in the final period.
He also had some positive words to share about Carter when asked what it’s like to have a scoring threat like that on the team this year.
“It’s pretty nice to see to be honest with you. It’s nice not worrying about goals all the time, because you know, he’s been getting them pretty regularly. So. hopefully he continues to play like that, and to score goals for us, because we obviously need them.”
Even so, the added offense hasn’t changed Kopitar’s approach to defense.
“You want to play your game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to think about it. It’s nice to see Carter scoring goals. I want to score goals too of course. I’m going to go to the net and all of the above, but it definitely helps when you have two lines going.”
Besides the red hot Carter, one of the other primary topics of discussion in the locker room on Tuesday was the Kings identity.
“This team tries to establish and identity on home ice especially,” Kopitar began, when asked for his thoughts on the subject. “I think that overall with our identity, we’ve done a pretty good job of showing what we’re all about, and we’re showing that on the road too. But, you definitely want to be a hard team to play against on home ice, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job right now.”
It wasn’t an easy game though, they were down 4-1 at one point. What were they thinking, trailing by three goals?
“I think the table started turning a little bit there in the second period,” Kopitar revealed. “They were starting to back off. I guess it’s natural. It’s a 4-1 lead and you let up a little bit. We started sensing that if we got one by the end of the period, 20 minutes left, couple goals behind, anything is possible. We managed to get that second one in the second period. We drew a couple penalties. We didn’t score a power play goal, but gained some momentum off that.”
During the second intermission, now down by a pair of goals, were there any big speeches prior to the team coming out for the third period?
“Not a lot, just ‘It’s a two goal game.’ …You get one early, that’s what we were thinking. You get one early, we’ll scrap another one…We said we’re going to throw everything at them…At the start of the third we came out firing, and a couple went in right away, and it’s a lot easier when you have momentum…We didn’t think we were gonna get four, but it worked out for us.”
Going back to the start of the game, was it surprising to see St. Louis be so physical?
“No, I don’t think so,” Koipitar said. “They have a big team. We knew it was going to be a physical game - quote, unquote – with Darryl it was going to be ‘heavy lifting.’ Those guys wanted to push us around a little bit, and we stood up pretty good and held ground a pushed back. That’s what you want to do on home ice.”
Overall, he thinks the Kings finally played their game in the third period.
“It’s skating, it’s making plays through the neutral zone, and it’s been paying off the last couple of third periods. Now we just have to convert it to a 60 minute game, and play a little bit more consistent.”
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