The Kings were better than the Ducks in period one of their game Monday night at Staples Center. They outshot the Anaheim team 9-5 in the first, a reflection of the fact that they had the puck most of the time.
They still exited the period down a goal, scored by Kesler at 16:11. It was set up by the hard work of Silfverberg, who drew tenacious defense by the Kings’ Muzzin. That and Luke Schenn letting Kesler go from his check. Kesler then cruised across the slot to his left, got a puck from Silfverberg, and put it into the empty left side of the cage on Jonathan Quick.
It was just one of these momentary mistakes, the kind LA rarely makes. Then again, we’re talking about arguably their sixth defenseman in #52. Didn’t matter anyway, because the LA team charged out to score twice in the second period on a dominating performance of 15 shots. The Ducks had just seven.
Goal one for the home team happened just 28 seconds into the period. Lucic got his 20th of the year after coming out from behind the net. Tanner Pearson freed a puck up in front for Lucic to score.
That first goal was followed by a fight between the aforementioned Schenn and Ryan Getzlaf. Let’s do the math on that. I’ll take your worst, slowest defenseman, and you give me your fastest, most dominating forward. Hello? Hello? Notice too that I didn’t say their “smartest” forward. How intelligent can a guy be when he’s fighting the other team’s slowest defenseman and taking himself off the ice. Notice we’re in a loop here? Yeah, I’m kidding about the smartest/dumbest award, but still, how can you let yourself—Getzlaf—be taken off the ice for five minutes when your team really kinda needs to get the offense going?
IH asked him afterwards why he did it. “It’s a combination of things. There’s things that go on in the game, and LA had just scored, so it was an opportunity that I wanted to do something.”
The Ducks never did get it cranked up, at least not in the second. They were scored on a second time when the Kings’ fourth line (Versteeg, Clifford, and Andreoff) was on the ice. Clifford made a nice cross-ice pass to McNabb, who took a shot from the point. It was deflected skillfully be Versteeg and went off the crossbar. He followed it the five feet to the net and banged it out of the air. Post. Then he flicked the blade of his stick out and put it past the goalie’s right leg pad. Three shots, one that counted as a shot, and it was a 2-1 game. This event’s time? 2:01 of the period. That’s two goals in a minute and a half. They would be the last.
The game featured a number of penalties, minors mostly and some that offset and so didn’t do anything to create a man advantage. But the Ducks were dangerous on one power play in period two, with Versteeg in the box. They launched five shots (of seven in the period, if that shows you anything about the poverty of their offense on the night), and had one that came through a crowd, into the crease, and was about to be put behind Quick by Mike Santorelli when Doughty reached out a desperate stick and whacked it out of there. He afterwards described the play: “It’s just kind of, I was just in the right spot in the right time. It wasn’t like I made a great play or anything like that. It happened to be a big play obviously, but was just a puck lying around the net. On the penalty kill, we haven’t been too happy with it overall [this year]. Usually those pucks are going in, so it was kind of nice to have a bounce going our way, and I was able to clear.”
The rest of the period was consumed with Kings chances that would go awry. Some went wide; some barely went off the goalie’s body; some they couldn’t corral. They took a penalty late (Andreoff) and watched as the Ducks stretched out the delay for nearly a minute.
The power play didn’t net anything, not even on the fresh ice used to start period three.
Being desperate in the third, the Ducks poured it on, but only once there were about seven minutes left. Until then, again the Kings kept the reigns. Kopitar deked out Gibson and put a puck under him on the slide. It was in front of the spread-eagled netminder’s body, but didn’t go in, though a crowd arrive and smashed him into the net.
Shortly after that, he left, a skate problem not reconciled by two trips to the bench, and Khudobin took over briefly. That fixed, Gibson was back, but he mostly watched as the Ducks put on their best effort at the other end of the ice. ‘Why this wasn’t sustained the whole game?’ is probably what he was asking.
The Anaheim team couldn’t capitalize again, but played well and essentially how they wanted, according to captain Ryan Getzlaf. He started, “You know what, I didn’t think we managed the puck properly. They forced us to make plays over people a lot of time, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.” He got more positive. “It’s playoff hockey. That’s what we expected tonight. . . . I don’t think we need to find anything. We’re playing pretty good hockey. We played a great team; I’m not going to fault what they did either. We’ve got a few execution things that we can shore up a little bit, but um, we just, they got it done tonight and we didn’t. We’ve got to just keep pushing along.” He later said, “We played a good hockey team. We’ve just got to keep that belief in here, and we know what we can accomplish.”
His star defenseman, Cam Fowler, wasn’t entirely of the same mind. He said, “They are a team that’s extremely physical and create opportunities off their forecheck, so you’ve got to manage the puck, and that was kind of the theme tonight. Our goaltender gave us a chance to tie it up at the end, but it was too little too late.” He said that he was responsible for the goal where he lost his man in front, and that that “just wasn’t good enough.”
“It’s too pretty big teams who can skate and like to get in on the forecheck. Any time you got a Grade-A scoring chance you had to capitalize, because you probably weren’t going to get another one. You have to credit them. I think we had only twenty shots on goal.” He said that the Ducks are “focused on playing our best hockey heading into the playoffs, and right now, we’re searching for that a little bit. In my opinion, just a little too inconsistent. . . . You can’t just flip a switch going in. You have to play at the top of your game or else you’re going to be in for a world of hurt come the first series.”
The Kings now have Winnipeg at home Saturday evening. The Ducks are on the road to end the season, first Colorado, then a make-up game in Washington for a snow day earlier in the season.
“We’ve done it for so long, we know how to keep it going. We know what to do, and how to do it with a long season.” So said Doughty about the Kings’ play right now.