The Columbus Blue Jackets
' bid to seize control of the Central Division was spoiled by the Los Angeles Kings
on Sunday night.
increased his NHL-scoring lead with a pair of goals, Alexander Frolov also scored twice and Jonathan Quick
made 24 saves as the Pacific Division-leading Kings skated away with a 5-2 win against the Blue Jackets at Staples Center.
Columbus quickly found itself in a two-goal hole. Michal Handzus broke the scoreless tie just 5:29 into the game before Kopitar beat Steve Mason
(19 saves) just 49 seconds later to make it 2-0. It was Kopitar's ninth goal of the season and his 20th point in 12 games.
Controversy arose just a few minutes later, when Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi
sent Jason Chimera face-first into the ice with a hip check along the right boards in the Kings' zone. The hit drew blood near Chimera's right eye.
''I don't care what you call it. It was a dirty hit,'' Chimera said. ''I've been hip-checked before, but this wasn't a hip check at all. It was a direct hit on the knees. I mean, I landed on my face on the ice, and my neck was squished against the ice. I'm lucky I didn't come out with a concussion or something.
''There's no room in the game for that. There's got to be a level of respect out there,'' Chimera added. ''There are too many guys that are carried out on stretchers because of dirty stuff.''
''I thought it was a good hit. The game is played in a split-second. I made a decision and went for it,'' Scuderi said. ''I don't really know where I got him, but I'm assuming it was questionable if so many of their guys were up in arms about it. I've played 300 games in this League, and I don't have a reputation as a dirty player. I'm certainly not a dirty player. But one hit can stir it up like that.''
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash
had an opportunity to cut the deficit in half when he was awarded a penalty shot at 13:16 of the first after being hooked from behind by Kings defenseman Jack Johnson
on a breakaway. But Quick came up with the save to keep Columbus off the scoreboard.
Los Angeles made it 3-0 when Jarret Stoll
notched his third goal of the season at the 5:33 mark of the second period. Antoine Vermette
tried to get the Blue Jackets back in it when he beat Quick at 14:05 of the second, but Kopitar quickly made it a three-goal game again when he scored on the power play in the period's final minute.
"I was going for the third one, that's for sure, but we didn't need it today," Kopitar said when asked about coming up short on the hat trick. "Hopefully it comes the next time."
made it a 4-2 game when he scored on a wraparound with 10:12 remaining, but Frolov scored a pair of goals just over six minutes apart to put the game away.
The victory allowed the Kings (8-4-0) to regain sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. The San Jose Sharks had briefly jumped ahead with their 4-1 victory earlier in the night at Philadelphia.
"Even the guys who are not scoring are blocking shots or winning faceoffs," Kopitar said. "Everybody contributes to the game. Hopefully, we'll keep it going."
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.