Kings 4, Coyotes 2

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 26, 2013
Anze Kopitar scored two goals to spark Los Angeles' top line and the defending Stanley Cup Kings earned their first victory of the season, 4-2 over the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night. Scoreless through the season's first three games, the Kings' top line of Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams had an extra jump against the Coyotes, combining for four points. Jake Muzzin had a goal and an assist and Jeff Carter also scored for Los Angeles, which matched its season total for goals to avoid its first four-game winless start since 1997-98. Eight players had at least a point for the Kings. Mikkel Boedker and Shane Doan scored for the Coyotes, who had another night of defensive letdowns for their fourth loss in five games. The Kings and Coyotes already didn't like each other much and the hatred intensified during a testy Western Conference finals last season. Los Angeles won the series in five games on the way to its first Stanley Cup, but not before the teams traded blows, including a hit by Brown in the clinching game that knocked Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival out and left the Coyotes fuming. The rematch pitted two teams trying to recapture last season's magic. The Kings' Cup defense got off to a shaky start, beginning with a 5-2 thrashing by Chicago after raising the championship banner at the Staples Center. Goalie Jonathan Quick hasn't been the same player who won the Conn Smythe Trophy and was a Vezina finalist a year ago, giving up 10 goals in three games, and the top line had a hard time getting started. Los Angeles also opened the season 0 for 19 on the power play and blew a chance for its first win of the season against the Oilers, giving up a goal with 4.7 seconds left before losing 2-1 in overtime. The Coyotes have only been marginally better. Phoenix has struggled to find the defense-first style that led the first NHL division title in franchise history, giving up 16 goals in four games. Goalie Mike Smith struggled the first two games before suffering a lower-body injury against Columbus and the Coyotes followed up their only win - against the Blue Jackets - by blowing two-goal lead in the third period of a 5-3 loss at San Jose on Thursday. The atmosphere wasn't quite the same for the conference finals rematch, but it certainly was entertaining. The Coyotes killed off a two-man advantage that lasted two minutes in the first period, about half of that with Boyd Gordon playing without his stick. They got a 5-on-3 of their own in the second period and capitalized when Boedker punched in a rebound past Quick after a shot by Oliver Ekman-Larsson hit the post. Kopitar gave LA's top line its first points of the season in the second period, taking a pass from Brown and beating Jason LaBarbera with a wrister from the slot. He followed Phoenix's first score with his second goal of the period, one-timing a drop pass from Williams, who had a semi-breakaway and lured LaBarbera to the side of the crease. Carter made it 3-1 later in the period, punching in a rebound on a shot by Simon Gagne, who was back after being a healthy scratch the previous two games. The Coyotes got just what they needed to open the third period when Doan scored 22 seconds in by gathering a pass from behind the goal by Lauri Korpikoski and flipping it past Quick. But Phoenix continued to give up good scoring chances and Muzzin put the Kings up 4-2 with a hard shot from near the blue line that appeared to catch LaBarbera off-guard. The Coyotes thought they had cut the lead to one with 39 seconds left on a rebound by Radim Vrbata, but the officials waved it off, saying the whistle had blown because they believed the puck was still under Quick. Notes: Coyotes C Martin Hanzal returned after missing two games with a lower-body injury. D Rostislav Klesla missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury and C Matthew Lombardi was out with an upper-body injury suffered against the Sharks on Thursday. ... Kings D Willie Mitchell, coming off knee surgery, skated with the team Saturday morning, but didn't play against Phoenix.
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