By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Anze Kopitar instinctively went to the net while his linemates dug for the puck along the boards. Dwight King knew where to find him with a pass for the Los Angeles Kings’ tiebreaking goal.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are on another roll, and the chemistry they developed during last year’s title run is starting to show.
Kopitar scored on a slick pass from King with 4:48 to play, and Los Angeles rallied from a third-period deficit for its fifth straight victory, 2-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles is on its longest winning streak of the season, capturing seven of eight overall after a 3-5-2 start to its title defense. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves for the Kings, who are succeeding with the formula that won the Cup last season: stellar goaltending backed by opportunistic offense from all four lines.
“I think we’re putting together a pretty good streak here, and we’ve got to keep it going,” Kopitar said. “We know we had a bit of a slow start and we’ve got some catching up to do.”
One day after trading seven-time, 20-goal scorer Simon Gagne to Philadelphia for a conditional draft pick, the Kings began with 50 scoreless minutes against Jimmy Howard, who stopped 27 shots.
The Kings finally tied it with 9:34 left on Jeff Carter’s goal during a two-man advantage. King then made a spinning pass from the boards in front to Kopitar, who beat Howard for his sixth goal of the season.
Late goals from two veteran stars thrilled the sellout crowd at Staples Center, where the Kings completed an unbeaten February run — albeit in just four home games. Los Angeles also avenged a last-minute loss to the Wings in Detroit 17 days earlier.
“We thought we deserved better in Detroit, so maybe it all comes down to the hockey god, right?” Kings coach Darryl Sutter asked. “I don’t think we had much in the tank, to be honest. The goaltender was the difference in the game.”
Except for a misadventure with his glove on Quincey’s goal, Bernier was outstanding in the backup goalie’s fourth consecutive victory since Feb. 2.
Kyle Quincey scored his first goal of the season on a misplay by Bernier in the first period, and the mistake was the only thing that prevented the Red Wings from getting shut out for the first time since their season opener.
The Red Wings had won two straight after an 0-3-2 skid, but Detroit blew a 40-minute lead for just the second time in nine games this season, while the Kings rallied from a two-period deficit for the second time this year.
“I’ve got to give us a chance to win, but it wasn’t enough,” Howard said. “We were playing a great road game there. We were just grinding it out and making smart plays. (But it) doesn’t matter who you play, you can’t be giving up three 5-on-3s.”
Center Johan Franzen returned to Detroit’s lineup after missing seven games with a hip injury, and defenseman Brendan Smith returned from an 11-game absence with an injured shoulder. Quincey also returned after missing the last two games with an injured ankle.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock used the injury turnover to shake up his lineup, benching defensemen Ian White and Kent Huskins.
“We built on our last game there with a lot of movement, a lot of shots,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Only thing we didn’t have is goals.”
Detroit dominated play early and scored on a comical misplay by Bernier. After King gave away the puck, Quincey’s high shot toward the net popped out of Bernier’s glove and arced over his head, falling softly into the goal behind him.
Quincey hadn’t registered a point in 17 games this season, and hadn’t scored a goal since last March 19 against Washington.
Los Angeles showed more spark later, but its oft-struggling power play had a particularly low moment in the second period after three consecutive Red Wings penalties. Given two full minutes of 5-on-3 play, the Kings barely threatened Howard and the Detroit defensemen, who got a loud ovation from the red-clad fans crowding the lower bowl.
But the Kings got another 5-on-3 advantage midway through the third period when Pavel Datsyuk received a rare minor penalty for a faceoff violation, and Carter deflected Mike Richards’ shot through Howard’s legs for his 11th goal.
Carter scored a goal in his fifth straight game, one short of the longest streak of his career.
NOTES: Los Angeles LW Dustin Penner played in his 500th NHL game. He recently took the lineup spot of Gagne, who hadn’t scored a goal in 11 games this season. … Detroit D Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to return from a shoulder injury Sunday, which would put nine defensemen on the Red Wings roster. … Irish forward Robbie Keane attended the game along with most of the two-time defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy, who begin their regular season Sunday.