Kopitar had a goal and two assists to help the Kings to a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. It was the start Los Angeles needed to its crucial five-game road trip that continues Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"I think he's played really well lately," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Kopitar, who has 57 points (15 goals, 42 assists) this season. "He's handled the puck, managed the game, and looked like a dominant player on the ice the last few games."
Los Angeles has 10 games remaining and is trying to avoid becoming the first team to miss the playoffs the season after winning the Stanley Cup since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07.
"If we play like that, not turning the puck over and playing with the puck, I think we'll be fine," Kopitar said.
Kopitar's goal at 5:05 of the third period gave the Kings a 3-1 lead. He scored his 15th of the season from the lower part of the left circle with a one-timer off the rebound of defenseman Jake Muzzin's shot from the left point.
"We didn't get enough pucks to the net," Devils forward Jordin Tootoo said. "When we had opportunities to get the puck down low, we didn't."
After playing the Rangers on Tuesday, the Kings play at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders on Thursday. They also make stops to play at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday and at the Chicago Blackhawks next Monday.
"We know coming to New York, look who we're playing," Sutter said. "We've got the Rangers, and look at the kind of year they're having. Then we go to the Islanders. We've got our work cut out [for us]."
That's why it was important for the Kings to get off to a good start on this road trip, one that could go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.
Los Angeles was coming off a 4-1 loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, when they allowed 42 shots on goal. They hadn't allowed more than 32 in their previous 13 games, and held opponents under 30 in 11 of those games.
The Kings entered the game first in the NHL in shots on goal allowed per game (27.1). They wanted to make sure the 42 shots against Saturday night was an anomaly.
"We were talking about it before the game, we gave  against Vancouver at home, which is definitely not a good number," Kopitar said. "We wanted to cut down on that."
The Kings gave themselves a chance with a strong start. They dominated the first period and held a 2-0 lead on goals by Andrej Sekera at 10:44 and Tyler Toffoli on a 5-on-3 at 19:22. Kopitar had the primary assist on Sekera's goal and the secondary assist on Toffoli's goal.
Los Angeles outshot New Jersey 16-3 and had a 25-8 advantage in total shot attempts in the first period.
"We were talking about how needed to come out hard; it's the start of a road trip, long travel, a time change and we were talking about how we had to come out hard right away," said forward Marian Gaborik, who set up Toffoli for his goal. "Use our speed, use our forecheck, and I think we did. It was a big 20 minutes to come up two zip there."
As good as they were in the first, the Kings were about as sloppy in the second period.
The Devils got a goal from Scott Gomez at 2:12 of the second to cut the deficit to 2-1. New Jersey and L.A. each managed five shots on goal, but the Devils had a 16-11 edge in total shot attempts in the second period.
The Kings negated two would-be rush opportunities that could have resulted in Grade A scoring chances by going offside. They couldn't even stay onside when they had a 4-on-2 rush at 8:18. They didn't have a shot on goal in the final 9:34 of the period.
"In the second period we slipped a little bit, but then we came back and [Kopitar] sealed it," Gaborik said. "We played most of the game the way we can."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl