SALZBURG, Austria - Anze Kopitar
was determined to put on a good show.
With numerous friends and family on hand at Tuesday’s game in Austria, Kopitar tallied a hat trick, including the game-winner, and added an assist to lead the Los Angeles Kings back from an early 3-0 deficit and defeat the EC Red Bulls Salzburg, 7-6 in front of a sold out crowd in the first round of the Red Bull Salute Tournament at the Eisarena in Salzburg, Austria.
Kopitar, the first Slovenian to play in the NHL, grew up just 2.5 hours away from Salzburg.
“I had a lot of buddies here, my grandparents, my girlfriend, they were supporting me,” Kopitar said. “It was a lot of fun to be playing back here in Europe and it was special for a lot of them to see me playing for the first time in a Kings jersey.”
Koptiar made it special.
With the team down 3-0 early, Kopitar fed Michael Cammalleri a perfect centering pass on an odd-man rush and Cammalleri put the Kings on the board trailing 3-1 just 4:11 into the contest.
After Ladislav Nagy brought the Kings within one, Kopitar scored the next two goals for the Kings' first lead of the night.
Kopitar scored his first, with Cammalleri returning the favor on a centering pass on another odd man rush at 8:39
“We are trying to talk a lot and build a lot of chemistry,” Cammalleri said of his line with Cammalleri and Dustin Brown. “We are trying to pass on ideas to each other and build of eachothers’ strengths.”
One of Kopitar’s strengths is his puck handling ability.
Kopitar created a turnover at center ice and basically skated down the middle of the ice and through four of the opposition before easily beating Reinhard Divis for a 4-3 lead with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first period.
The middle frame slowed down quite a bit, with just three total goals scored in the period after a wild seven-goal first.
Jiri Bicek tallied his second goal or the night for the Red Bulls to tie the game at four about half way through the stanza. The Red Bulls took their last lead of the game just two minutes later with Daniel Welser lighting the lamp.
Derek Armstrong tied it at 15:37 of the second, converting easily on a penalty shot and Nagy scored his second of the night to recapture the lead. Kopitar brought the score to 7-5 with his third goal of the night with just over seven minutes remaining.
“For us we needed a great performance from Anze Kopitar to with stand them,” Kings head coach Marc Crawford said. “We didn’t panic in the end and I thought our third period was very good. We had great puck control in the third period and we forced them to try and take the puck from us where most of the night we were chasing them.’
Despite the improved play by the Kings in the final stanza, the Red Bulls inched closer with four minutes remaining on a goal by Pinter Phillip but could not score the equalizer. J.S. Aubin earned the win in relief, making 28-of-31 saves, while Divis took the loss, stopping 33-of-40 shots.
Goals by the Red Bulls Remi Royer (2:08), Bicek (2:46) and Frank Banham (3:18) created the early 3-0 hole and set the crowd off on an early frenzy of singing, chanting and banging wildly on drums as the Red Bulls chased Kings starting goaltender Jason LaBarbera after he surrendered three goals on six shots.
Most of the damage was done on special teams as the Red Bulls finished 3-of-9 on the power play and added a short handed goal, while the Kings were 4-of-10 with the man advantage and each team put 40 shots on net.
In addition to Kopitar’s four points, Cammalleri finished with a goal and two assists and Nagy tallied two goals.
“We are very pleased to escape and come out of the night with a win,” Crawford said. “This is a complement to the Salzburg Red Bulls, they were very good tonight.”
The Kings will face Farjestads BK for the tournament championship tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Austrian time, 10 a.m Pacific Time. Farjestads BK over came a HC Davos 2-1 third-period lead and won in the shootout.