Kings beat Avalanche as Kopitar breaks club record for assists
Through the first 20 games of the campaign, Kopitar had set the club record in games played, passed Luc Robitaille for second in points and hit the 400-goal mark, all the while solidifying the team's credentials as a viable Stanley Cup contender.
With a chance to avenge one of their few regulation losses from opening night and pick up another memento to his historic career, Kopitar became the franchise leader in assists on Quinton Byfield's go-ahead goal, and the Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Sunday.
“I knew it was coming,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said. “He's got probably 10 (commemorative) pucks at home in the last three weeks, so that's a real good thing for him and his family.”
Byfield had two goals, Trevor Moore and Drew Doughty also scored, and the Kings got back on track after their five-game winning streak was snapped by Washington on Wednesday. Cam Talbot made 20 saves.
After tying it up at 1 midway through the second period, Byfield put the Kings ahead with 6:34 remaining in the third with his fourth goal in six games.
Kopitar had the secondary assist, his 758th for the Kings and breaking a tie with Marcel Dionne for the club record.
“Sometimes you look at that list and the names that are on there, and it makes it very surreal just to be able to be on the same page with those guys, and I guess now passing them,” Kopitar said. “This has been my home, obviously, for quite a while, and I’m pretty much speechless.”
For Byfield, the moment was important on two fronts. Not only did he relish the chance to help Kopitar move to the top of another record along with their linemate Adrian Kempe, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft set a new career-high with his sixth goal in 21 games. Byfield had five goals in 40 games as a rookie in 2021-22.
Playing with Kopitar and Kempe in nearly every game since Dec. 31, 2022, has allowed Byfield to become more assertive in using his size, and both goals saw him being rewarded for that willingness to get to the tough areas.
“I just try to go to the net, get my stick down,” Byfield said. “Playing with Juice and Kopi, two great passers, just get there and good things happen.”
Kopitar was recognized during the next break in play, giving a wave and putting his hand over his heart to thank the fans for their standing ovation. Moore and Doughty then scored to add the finishing touches on a celebratory night against the tired Avalanche, who were playing the second game of a back-to-back.
“You could tell which team was the rested team in the third period, because they started to put the heat on us,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “They kind of took the game over there.”
Colorado clearly missed Makar, who did not play the final 2:57 of the third period and overtime of a 4-3 shootout loss at Anaheim on Saturday night. Makar leads the NHL with 27 assists, and his 34 points is tied with Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes for most by a defenseman.
Bednar said before the game he did not know whether the injury would force Makar to miss more than the one game.
Avalanche: Host Anaheim on Tuesday night.
Kings: At Columbus on Tuesday night.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL