Chalk this one up as another doozy.
Things went down to the wire Friday night in the Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Anze Kopitar tied the game with 29 seconds left to play to notch his third-career NHL hat-trick, Tanner Pearson became the overtime hero after sitting two games as a healthy scratch, and Peter Budaj registered a win in his first NHL start since April 9, 2014.
It wasn’t all good for the Kings, however, who lost Marian Gaborik during the first period when he collided awkwardly with New York’s Dominic Moore, suffering a lower-body injury.
The Kings were quick to get on the board when Anze Kopitar wristed home the night’s opening tally 33 seconds into the game. Kopitar, upon developing possession in New York’s zone, cut around the left circle and wired a pass through traffic to beat Antti Raanta.
Just after the midway point of the first, Marian Gaborik struck for his 12th goal of the season to give the Kings a 2-0 lead. Much like Kopitar’s marker, Gaborik circled around after finding time and space and fired a well-place wrist shot through traffic.
Gaborik’s night would soon end, unfortunately, leaving the game moments later with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
The Rangers would answer with three goals of their own; Viktor Stalberg giving the Rangers their first of the night with seven minutes left in the first.
In the second, New York struck twice in a 1:37 minute span to take a 3-2 lead.
With under five minutes to play in the second, Anze Kopitar netted his second goal of the game when he touched home a gorgeous pass from Milan Lucic. Lucic pounced on a turnover caused by Dustin Brown then quickly transitioned with Kopitar to connect to knot the score 3-3.
New York took a 4-3 lead with five minutes to play when Kevin Hayes buried a power play goal.
With under a minute remaining in regulation, and with Peter Budaj pulled for an extra attacker, Jeff Carter won an offensive zone faceoff back to Drew Dooughty, who then fed Anze Kopitar along the right side boards.
Kopitar, with both smarts and desperation, fired a wrist shot at New York’s net that ricochet off of a Rangers defenseman and into the net to tie the game 4-4 with 29 seconds left to play. For Kopitar, it was his third-career NHL hat-trick.
Kopitar’s game-tying goal was the fifth time the Kings scored with an empty net this season.
In overtime, Peter Budaj denied Derrick Brassard on a one-on-one bid with three minutes to play, and just over a minute later, Tanner Pearson fled into New York’s zone and fired a wrist shot past Raanta short side to give the Kings a 5-4 win.
Anze Kopitar (3G) led all Kings players in points scored (3), Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter in shots taken (5), Milan Lucic in hits delivered (6), Brayden McNabb, Luke Schenn and Jeff Carter in shots blocked (2), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (30:01). Peter Budaj made 24 saves in the win.
The Kings will continue their season-long seven-game road trip Sunday when they take on the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 9:30 AM PST.