Kopitar scores 4 times, Kings cruise to 7-1 win over Avs
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By PAT GRAHAM
DENVER (AP) Anze Kopitar was asked over and over about scoring four goals. All he wanted to do was talk about earning two points. That's the No. 1 figure on his mind.
"I'm playing for the guys in here. Our goal is to make the playoffs," Kopitar said . "That's all it comes down to."
Still, it was a pretty special evening for the Los Angeles captain.
Kopitar became the first Kings player with a four-goal game since 1993, Jonathan Quick stopped 29 shots and LA picked up another valuable road win by cruising past the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 on Thursday night.
Kopitar was so efficient that he picked up his fourth career hat trick with 7:33 remaining in the second period. He added another goal early in the third. This was the first four-goal game by a Kings player since Luc Robitaille accomplished the feat on Nov. 25, 1993, at Quebec.
"He's elite. He's one of the best players in the league," said Kopitar's teammate Nate Thompson, who had two assists. "I have a first-row seat and it's fun to watch."
Not if you're on the other side. The Avalanche simply couldn't stop him.
"He's a world-class player for a reason," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "He showed that tonight."
Tobias Rieder had two goals and Jake Muzzin scored his first since Feb. 3 for the Kings, who surpassed Anaheim for the third spot in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles improved to 6-0-2 over its last eight road games.
Quick allowed an early goal to Mikko Rantanen and was stellar after that in a game that had a playoff feel. Well, at least early, before the Kings reeled off seven unanswered goals.
"They came out pretty hard the first five minutes. ... We settled in and played our game, our road game, our team game," Thompson said. "I thought we played a pretty complete game."
The Kings beat an Avalanche team that's 15-3-1 in its last 19 games on home ice. Colorado remains in a wild-card spot with eight games remaining.
Time to scoreboard watch?
"You've got to be careful watching the scoreboard because it's wasted emotion," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "We're concentrating on what we have to do to get in."
Semyon Varlamov showed signs of fatigue in giving up five goals before being replaced by backup Jonathan Bernier in the second period. Varlamov has appeared in 19 straight games (17 starts) with Bernier sidelined by a concussion. Bernier returned Thursday and allowed two goals.
It's the third time this season the Avs have allowed seven goals.
Trailing 3-1, Nathan MacKinnon clanged one off the crossbar seconds into the second period. Moments later, Rieder found himself on a breakaway and beat Varlamov with a wrist shot.
That pretty much wrapped things up. About the only drama was Kopitar's hat-trick quest.
He recorded his first hat trick since Feb. 12, 2016, with a backhander in the second period. Some of the fans at the Pepsi Center littered the ice with hats. He wasn't done there, though, scoring his fourth on a breakaway.
"I just felt all night that the puck was kind of following me around," Kopitar said. "It worked out for me tonight."
At 30, Kopitar's turning in his best statistical season with 86 points.
"We're all happy for him," Thompson said. "He's usually the guy that's dishing the puck, a pass-first kind of guy. He can score goals, too, apparently. It was a pleasure to watch."
Colorado took a 1-0 lead 3:33 into the game when Gabriel Landeskog kicked a sliding puck over to Rantanen, who rocketed it into the net. The advantage lasted all of 55 seconds.
MacKinnon had an assist to extend his point streak to a career-best 14 games. It was also his 92nd point of the season, the most by an Avalanche player since Joe Sakic had 100 in 2006-07.
NOTES: Quick was credited with his fourth assist of the season on Rieder's goal. ... Dustin Brown had two assists. ... Avs F Carl Soderberg missed a second straight game with an illness. ... D Tyson Barrie had his 11-game point streak snapped. ... Rantanen and MacKinnon both have 21 points in March, the most in the NHL.
Kings: Finish a four-game trip on Saturday in Edmonton.
Avalanche: Host Vegas on Saturday.
More AP hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Updated March 23, 2018