Kings center Trevor Lewis scores on Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen in the second… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The Kings lost a game Thursday but dodged a far more dire fate.
Center Anze Kopitar, helped off the ice at 12:12 of the third period of what became a 5-4 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars at Staples Center, had a bloody nose and sore neck and shoulder and will be monitored Friday. However, General Manager Dean Lombardi said Kopitar's injuries were not as serious as they initially appeared.
"He should be fine," Coach Darryl Sutter said, a bloody nose and sore neck being all in a day's work for him in his playing and farming days.
That meant the Kings could exhale after a game in which they rediscovered their long-lost power play and scored three goals with a man advantage for the first time since March 8, 2010, but also saw their penalty-killing streak end at 42 on the goal that brought Dallas even at 4-4 at 14:35 of the third period.
The Stars got that advantage when Kings center Mike Richards, avenging Brenden Morrow's hit that left Kopitar in a heap in the corner, started a fight and got two extra minor penalties -- one for instigating a fight and the other for unsportsmanlike conduct for instigating a fight while wearing a visor. Had he taken his helmet off he would not have gotten that extra penalty -- but that probably didn't occur to him in the heat of battle.
Nor did it disturb his teammates.
"I'll kill that one any time," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.
During that power play Loui Eriksson spoiled the Kings' rally by poking the puck past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who earlier Thursday was added to the NHL All-Star roster.
Sutter said he wasn't surprised that Richards defended Kopitar.
"That's what good teams do, right? I'd expect that out of Mike," Sutter said.
The Kings were excellent on the power play, scoring their first, third and fourth goals with the man advantage and displaying better puck movement and creativity than they have in a long time.
"If we play like that every night, play that well on the PK and power play, we'll win our share of games," defenseman Drew Doughty said.
Eriksson and Eric Nystrom scored 51 seconds apart in the first period for a 2-0 Dallas lead, but Kopitar cut that in half by deflecting a Jack Johnson shot past Kari Lehtonen. Alex Goligoski extended the Stars' lead to 3-1 before Trevor Lewis scored his first goal of the season off a long pass from Brad Richardson and Jack Johnson scored during a five-on-three to bring the Kings even at 6:38 of the third period.
Brown put them ahead at 8:55 of the third period with another power-play tally, off a fine pass from Kopitar, but Eriksson tied it and scored the only goal in the shootout. The Kings appeared to score during overtime when Colin Fraser crashed the net, but no goal was awarded
"Two veteran officials calling more than everything," Sutter said of Dennis LaRue and Dan O'Halloran.
The Kings are 6-1-4 under Sutter and still trying to put every element of their game together. Their homestand didn't end quite as they wanted, but given their inconsistent scoring and the previous sputtering of their power play, it could have been worse.
"I think it's a start for getting back to where we want to be at home, where teams come in and we make it hard to play against," Brown said.
The key is they can't make it hard on themselves, which means they must keep their power play going and maintain strong penalty killing and defense. And hope that Lombardi and Sutter are right about Kopitar not being seriously hurt.