With his two-point game last night, Anze Kopitar moved into a tie for third in the NHL in points, with 23, two behind Phil Kessel and one behind Thomas Vanek. Yet how many times does one, when listening/watching/reading NHL pundits, hear Kopitar’s name mentioned among the NHL’s elite? Part of that is that Kopitar has yet to “prove it’’ for a full season. He’s had long stretches of brilliant play but has yet to finish a season with more than 81 points. Games like last night’s though, will go a long way toward burnishing Kopitar’s reputation. With his team having coughed up a two-goal, third-period lead, Kopitar did some outstanding work around the Anaheim net to corral his own rebound and beat Dan Ellis for the game-winning goal with three minutes left. That, as Terry Murray pointed out, is the type of play that sets apart “elite’’ players.
MURRAY: “That’s the only way you can become a great player, is to respond at a critical time, a critical moment, and do the big stuff. It’s how teams break through to the next level. You don’t always have a game where you’re going to play well. You might just go out and be average on any given night, but when the opportunity is there at the end of the day, to make a play and make a difference and you win, that is what it’s all about. Those players who can step up and do that become great players. They get recognized.’’
Murray was also quick to credit the teammates who contributed to Kopitar’s goal, most notably Rob Scuderi and Justin Williams.
MURRAY: “Absolutely. The look, it takes all five to get the job done. I complement Scuds because he’s not a player who carries the puck a lot. He’s not an offensive-minded guy, but he takes great pride in his checking game and he’s one of the better defensemen in the league on that side of the game. So in a 3-3 situation, for him to get that involved on the offensive side of the blue line, it’s a brave move. I want to recognize it. It made the difference and it created the opportunity.’’