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Anze Kopitar’s hot start not enough for LA Kings

LOS ANGELES — It was no secret the Los Angeles Kings needed to jump-start their offense in the Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Golden Knights.

Coach John Stevens believed he got what he wanted from his team at times in Game 3 on Sunday night. It just wasn’t enough as the Kings fell behind 3-0 in the series with a 3-2 loss at Staples Center.

“I thought (Anze Kopitar) was really good for us despite having guys draped all over him all night,” Stevens said. “I thought we created a lot more offensive looks, zone time and quality looks around the net and that’s going to have to continue for us.

“I thought we played a really solid hockey game. All three of their goals came from plays off the wall. The first one was on a stolen puck on the forecheck where we got beat off the wall. The second play we got beat along the wall and the third one was off the faceoff.

“Those are critical errors at critical times that cost you a hockey game. It’s unfortunate. I thought we made a good push to create more zone time tonight and made (Knights goaltender Marc-Andre) Fleury work a little harder than he had earlier in the series, but some critical errors along the wall cost us a chance to win.”

His offensive star staked the Kings off to a promising start. Kopitar created a turnover in the defensive zone in the first period and pushed forward to get the puck deep in the Knights’ zone, before finding Alex Iafallo on the far post to give the Kings their first lead of the series.

“I think we took our foot off the pedal there for a bit,” Iafallo said. “We can’t do that. We have to keep battling.

“They have a good team. We’re aware of that. We had a good two periods, but we have to play three full periods against them.”

The Kings have talked throughout the series about utilizing their defense to generate offense, and it was no coincidence the opening goal occurred with the Kings’ top defensive pairing on the ice.

Drew Doughty had missed Game 2 because of a suspension and Jake Muzzin had been out since March 26 due to injury.

“It’s been a long time,” Muzzin said Sunday afternoon of his return to action. “I’m excited. It’s tough to watch, but I’m excited to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Muzzin said it was difficult to sit in the press box and watch, but it did gave him a chance to analyze what could be done to forge a path back into the series.

The road just got longer.

Stevens upset with Haula hit

Stevens was unhappy with a play by Erik Haula in front of the Kings’ net late in the second period when he appeared to strike Kopitar.

“We got (Doughty) suspended for making a hockey play and (Haula hits) one of the best players in the world with the butt-end of his stick,” Stevens said. “If I was confused before, I’m bewildered now. That’s an intent to injure play. I don’t like hard hockey, I love hard hockey. I love good, honest, hard hockey. Kopitar is about as tough a guy as you can find. You guys make the judgment because it’s a bunch of ‘BS’ to be honest with you.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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