Ryan Smyth had a goal and an assist, Michael Handzus connected on a power play, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Saturday despite losing leading scorer Anze Kopitar for at least 6 weeks with a broken right ankle.
Kopitar, a five-year veteran center who leads Los Angeles with 73 points, was checked lightly by defenseman Ryan O'Byrne against the left boards in the Colorado zone before falling backward with 4:21 left in the second. He lay on the ice for several moments before he was helped off by Handzus and a trainer, and was hunched over in severe pain when he went to the dressing room.
The Kings refused to be specific, calling it a lower-body injury, but coach Terry Murray revealed the severity of it while addressing reporters.
Kopitar, who appeared in his second All-Star game last month, has played in a club-record 330 consecutive games — breaking the previous mark of 324 set by Marcel Dionne on March 15 at Nashville. It was another untimely injury for the playoff contending Kings, who were playing their second game since right wing Justin Williams dislocated his shoulder Monday in a 2-1 shootout win against Calgary.
Handzus connected on a power play for Los Angeles, Trevor Lewis and Willie Mitchell also scored, and Jonathan Quick made 20 saves to help the Kings tighten their grip on a playoff spot and complete their first four-game season sweep of the Colorado-Quebec Nordiques franchise. Captain Dustin Brown had two assists.
Quick was in net for all four games — including a 5-0 victory on Dec. 21 that ended the Avalanche's season-best six-game winning streak — and is 7-0 lifetime against Colorado. The Kings are 19-4-5 after a 1-10-0 skid, allowing an average of 2.2 goals during the stretch while giving up more than three goals only three times.
Los Angeles was leading 2-0 at the time of Kopitar's injury. Milan Hejduk got Colorado on the board with 1:36 left in the second, giving him 11 straight 20-goal seasons to tie Joe Sakic's franchise record. Smyth restored the Kings' two-goal margin at 1:36 of the third with his 21st goal but only his second in 25 games. It came on a wraparound after he spun away from defenseman Jonas Holos.
Smyth then set up Lewis' goal with 9:55 remaining after a turnover by the Avalanche in the neutral zone.
The Kings opened the scoring 10½ minutes into the first on Mitchell's goal, a one-timer from the left point after the puck bounced to him off the boards following Kopitar's wide shot from the other side. Dustin Penner was screening goalie Peter Budaj as the puck flew past his glove.
Handzus made it 2-0 at 17:34 of the period, beating Budaj high to the glove side from short range while O'Byrne was off for high-sticking the Kings' center. Handzus barely kept his team onside by dragging his back foot across the blue line before Brown carried the puck into the zone and backhanded it to Handzus as he slipped behind the defense.
Notes: The Avalanche have a chance to play spoiler with six of their eight remaining games against playoff-contending clubs. ... Colorado needs two more wins to avoid finishing with fewer than 30 for the first time since 1991-92, when the team was in Quebec and finished 20-48-12. ... Budaj needs one victory to join Patrick Roy and Dan Bouchard as the only goalies in franchise history to record at least 100 regular-season wins. Budaj, who has lost his last five starts, came in with a 6-1 record and 2.74 goals-against average against Los Angeles.