LOS ANGELES, Calif. – After Corey Perry ended the Anaheim Ducks’ highly entertaining 100th meeting with the Los Angeles Kings with a rocket of a game-winning goal, the local rivals emerged with a healthy mutual respect.
Although they’ve never made the playoffs in the same season, they’ve both got a great chance this spring—and it just might come down to their next two matchups on the final two days of the regular season.
Perry scored his 37th goal 1:32 into overtime, Ray Emery made 31 saves in his second straight victory and the Ducks beat the Kings 2-1 in the Freeway Faceoff on Saturday night.
Los Angeles earned a point after getting captain Dustin Brown’s tying goal with 8:56 left, but Anaheim claimed its seventh win in nine games when rookie defenceman Cam Fowler got the puck to Perry in full stride with a pass at mid-ice. Perry beat Jonathan Quick with a blistering shot for the all-star forward’s sixth goal in four games—an exceptional play to end an exceptional game.
“I just saw one defenceman back, so I thought I might as well go for it, and it found a way to go in,” said Perry, the NHL’s third-leading goal scorer. “I didn’t really see where it went or what happened. I just closed my eyes and shot it.”
Anaheim moved into a ninth-place tie with Calgary in the Western Conference standings with 73 points. The Ducks and Flames, who meet at Honda Center on Sunday night, are just one point behind seventh-place Nashville and Chicago—and three behind the fifth-place Kings.
Anaheim and Los Angeles can’t help thinking their season-ending matchups in three weeks will determine whether they’ll make the post-season together.
“It’s going to come down to the wire,” Perry said. “You look at the standings, and teams that are all around us are winning, so we’ve got to win our fare share of games because every point is crucial.”
Rookie Brandon McMillan scored in the first period, and Emery was outstanding in just his second start for Anaheim, which signed him last month to fill in for injured all-star Jonas Hiller.
“It’s a fun time of the year to play,” said Emery, who has allowed just two goals in seven periods with Anaheim. “It’s easy to get up for the games. We realize that one day you’re in eighth, the next day you’re in 10th, so it’s a battle all the time.”
Quick stopped 23 shots for the Kings, who have lost two straight after a perfect four-game trip. Los Angeles still earned its 86th point to move ahead of Dallas.
“We played really well, (but) we had a bad bounce on the first goal, and we just couldn’t beat Emery,” Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell said. “It’s a team we’d obviously like to beat in regulation to put some more space between us, but it was a fun game to be a part of. We deserved better, but we’re going to focus on the positives.”
Los Angeles has earned a point in 21 of its last 25 games. The Staples Center crowd featured a large contingent of Ducks fans, likely contributing to the lively play.
“Right from the very start of the game, there was a playoff-like atmosphere,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. “The building was alive, and both teams came to compete hard. I thought we had an excellent third period, but we just couldn’t find a way to finish.”
The Ducks scored late in the first period when a dump-in pass by Dan Sexton bounced crazily, ricocheting away from Jack Johnson and landing in front of McMillan. The speedy rookie forward skated past Johnson and beat Quick for his 10th goal.
Quick stopped Jason Blake on a breakaway after Drew Doughty fumbled the puck for Los Angeles in the opening minute of the second period. Wayne Simmonds’ apparent goal for the Kings was then waved off when Alexei Ponikarovsky was called for goaltender interference after driving to the net, although Ponikarovsky appeared to be checked into Emery by Ducks defenceman Luca Sbisa.
Brown scored his 23rd goal moments after a power play ended, banging the puck into an open net after Michal Handzus fired it onto his tape with an exceptional pass from the boards.
“We knew the game would be exciting, and it was every bit of that,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “With the rivalry developing the way it has over the years, it was an excellent hockey game from our standpoint because we got the extra point.”
NOTES: The Kings wore their Forum-blue-and-gold vintage uniforms while honouring Hall of Famer Bob Pulford, the former Kings player and coach. Quick also wore tan-coloured pads in another retro nod. … Los Angeles scratched LW Kyle Clifford, who didn’t return after a fight in the first period of Thursday’s loss to St. Louis. Coach Terry Murray said Clifford had a black eye, but his injury is “nothing out of the ordinary.” … Five for Fighting singer John Ondrasik attended the game. The Los Angeles native is a lifelong Kings fan who yelled out “Go Kings!” after performing at last month’s Heritage Classic in Calgary’s McMahon Stadium.