COLUMBUS, Ohio – Prodigious Blue Jackets killer Anze Kopitar did it again.
Kopitar had his second career three-goal game and Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 shots to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-2 victory on Friday night, saddling Columbus with its seventh consecutive loss.
“It’s a nice building. Everything around here is nice,” said Kopitar, who has eight goals and five assists in a nine-game points streak against the Blue Jackets. “When I first broke into the league and (started) coming here, I felt good pretty much every night in this building. Some nights are obviously better than others.”
It was a good night for the Kings, who got a break or two, and a bad one for the Blue Jackets, who can’t catch a break.
Kopitar picked up the hat trick by the midpoint of the second period. He was in the penalty box for hooking, but got out just in time to receive Dustin Brown’s seeing-eye stretch pass at the blue line. Kopitar then deked goalie Steve Mason before scoring easily on the forehand.
“It’s funny how that happens sometimes when guys are just coming out the penalty box,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “We’re kind of sitting on our pants in front of our net and take a swipe at the puck and it ends up at the right spot at the right time. And he makes a real great move on it.”
Justin Williams had a goal and two assists and Drew Doughty added two assists for the Kings (38-25-5) who kept pace in the race for a playoff spot in the West.
“We look at the standings, we know where we are, we know how important every game is,” Williams said. “It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Kopitar, a 23-year-old Slovenian, scored three goals only once before in his 386 NHL career games—on Oct. 22, 2009, against Dallas. The big night swelled his season goal total to 24.
The game wasn’t without some drama for the Kings. Doughty was checked by Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger into one of the upright glass supports near the Columbus bench early in the third period. Doughty went face-first into the padded stanchion, hitting it while standing up straight, and then buckled to the ice. He appeared to be in obvious pain on all fours for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room.
But he returned to the ice soon after, barely missing a shift, and played on regular basis the rest of the way.
“I just got it right in the nose,” Doughty said. “There was just a little bit of blood, nothing drastic. I obviously didn’t see the turnbuckle, I had my head down on the play and rammed right into it. I’m fine. He obviously didn’t mean to do it.”
Earlier this week, Montreal’s Max Pacioretty sustained a severe concussion and cracked vertebra when he hit the stanchion on a similar check by Boston’s Zdeno Chara.
Scottie Upshall and Derick Brassard scored for the Blue Jackets (31-27-9), who were in the middle of the playoff hunt until their recent collapse. The Kings have won six of the last seven meetings with Columbus.
The Blue Jackets were pressing for a tying goal—and came close several times—before Williams’ goal with 1:34 left settled matters. Brassard hit the post on a shot from point-blank range with just over 2 minutes remaining.
But that’s the way things have gone lately.
“We put the big push on at the end and had some chances,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “Brass had that great opportunity at the end. We couldn’t find a way to get it tied up.”
NOTES: Kings C Jarret Stoll was hit in the face by on a clear by Columbus D Marc Methot that ramped up a stick. He also returned. … Doughty has a seven-game points streak against the Blue Jackets, with 12 points in that span. … The seven-game skid is the Blue Jackets’ longest since dropping nine in a row last season.