LOS ANGELES – There was no last-minute breakdown this time for the Los Angeles Kings. Anze Kopitar left that memory behind.
Kopitar scored on a terrific leave-behind move on Jimmy Howard with 4:48 left to lift the Kings past the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1, in spotlight game between the two Western Conference heavyweights.
Dwight King fed a wide-open Kopitar from the boards after Trevor Lewis mucked it free as L.A. completed a comeback from 1-0 down for its fifth straight win. It was redemption for the Feb.10 meeting in which Detroit scored the game winner with 4.5 seconds remaining although the Kings played one of their best games of the season.
"We've played them twice and we thought we deserved better in Detroit, so it comes down to the hockey gods, right?" Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We played really well in the third and we struggled in the first…everybody's searching for the perfect hockey game.
"It's not easy to win. You don't always play a perfect game. I don't think there was much in their tank, quite honest."
Detroit could almost see the finish line but a precarious 1-0 lead vanished when it handed Los Angeles its second two-man advantage on Pavel Datsyuk's faceoff violation. Jeff Carter made a great redirect on Mike Richards' shot that slipped under Howard's left pad at 10:26 to give Carter goals in five straight games, one shy of his career high.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock pointed to the second defensive helper [Cody] Emmerton falling down in the pile on the Kopitar goal. Kopitar floated to the front for King's backhand pass.
"I just wanted to make sure I got loose, just in case those guys got the puck," Kopitar said. "I wanted to make sure I was in a decent position to come back. Once I saw [King] get the puck, once it opened up, I knew was by myself on the goalie."
Detroit's 1-0 lead looked more vulnerable when Justin Abdelkader began a cafeteria line to the penalty box in the second period, with a boarding of Jake Muzzin 200 feet from his own net. Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson joined him with tripping and hooking penalties, respectively.
"It doesn't matter who you play," Howard said. "You can't be giving up three 5-on-3s. We shot ourselves in the foot. Next thing you know, they got two goals."
The Kings' 24th-ranked power play managed just three shots on goal during two minutes' worth of the two-man advantage. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall led the way with a combined 5:13 minutes played on the penalty kill, and L.A. walked into its locker room still scoreless after 40 minutes.
At the morning skate, Sutter bounced around the hallway to remind his players of the early start time – they usually start home games at 7:30 p.m. PT – but they began as if their body clocks were off.
What was Sutter's demeanor during the intermissions?
"You obviously know Darryl," King said with a smile.
L.A. needed to kill two early penalties and was outshot 11-1 by the time Kyle Quincey's shot bounced straight up off Slava Voynov's stick in front of the goal, and glanced off Jonathan Bernier's mask into the net at 9:42.
"This was a tough one," Zetterberg said. "We played really well in the first period. We had really good penalty killing in the second. And then the third was pretty even. Unfortunately, they got two goals. It's not often you win if you only score one goal."
Quincey's first goal since March 12, 2012 came in his return to the lineup from an ankle injury. Detroit also saw Johan Franzen return to the lineup, along with Brendan Smith. Valtteri Filppula sat out with a sore shoulder.
Detroit saw its road power play drought reach 0 for 31, which matched the longest such stretch to start a season since 1938-39.