LOS ANGELES – The Anaheim Ducks are trying to beat the odds and avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, while their Southern California neighbours are closing in on their first post-season berth since 2002.
The Ducks and their area rivals from Los Angeles have never made the post-season in the same year, but Anaheim improved its slim chances of qualifying with a 2-1 shootout win over the Kings on Saturday night.
Anaheim, in 10th place in the Western Conference, is four points below the playoff cutoff with four games left. The Kings can clinch a spot as soon as Sunday if Calgary loses in regulation at Chicago.
“We desperately needed these points,” said Ducks forward Saku Koivu, who scored the tying goal on a power play with 1:32 left in regulation and netted the only goal of the shootout. “(Friday) we got a shootout loss and lost a point, but tonight we came back at the end of the game.
“We’ve got to win them all and get help from other teams, but we are going to push until the end.”
The Kings lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods (29-0-1). They had won 32 straight under those circumstances since April 4, 2009, when they lost 2-1 at Phoenix.
“This one is tough to swallow, but we have got to put it behind us,” forward Anze Kopitar said. “We have four games left to make sure we do the job. We got one point out of it, which is a little something to put toward our total.
“We definitely need to have a better start and throw a little emotion and desperation into our game.”
Jarret Stoll of the Kings went off for hooking Corey Perry with 2:13 left in regulation, and the Ducks capitalized with Koivu’s 19th goal on a rebound during a goalmouth scramble.
“We wanted two here, and gave it away. But every point we can get now means we are inching closer to clinching that playoff spot,” said Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, who made 32 saves. “They have a bunch of players that are good around the net, like Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. They take the puck in and create stuff in front. That’s what they did on the tying goal. They just took it to the net, and it worked for them.”
Curtis McElhinney, getting his fifth straight start because of Jonas Hiller’s back spasms, made 29 saves before stopping Kopitar, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown in the tiebreaker.
“We’re desperate for points and we have to continue to focus on what we can control,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “McElhinney gave us a chance, making three big stops in the shootout to give us the extra points.”
Johnson scored the Kings’ goal during a power play in the first period. Quick stopped Perry and Teemu Selanne in the shootout before Koivu beat him to the stick side after faking a backhander.
Quick, who sat out the previous two games to work on his form after a four-game stretch in which he was 0-3 with a 3.99 goals-against average, allowed fewer than three goals for the first time in six starts since beating the Islanders 1-0 on March 20.
“He was sharp. He was real alert. He found a lot of pucks,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “He found the puck from the blue-line, looking through traffic. He looks like he’s back on top.”
The Kings capitalized on Perry’s penalty when Johnson’s slap shot from just inside the blue-line deflected off the stick of Anaheim’s Troy Bodie and fluttered over McElhinney’s left shoulder with Alexander Frolov screening him.
“We were trying to do too much and we got ourselves in trouble with turnovers again,” Murray said. “It is a young group of guys who have a very hard time understanding how important it is to establish certain parts of your game. We definitely have to learn from this one. We know how to play. It’s just that the young guys need to buy into it completely for us to be successful in the playoffs.”
NOTES: Ducks D James Wisniewski returned to the lineup after serving an eight-game suspension for a hit that knocked ex-Blackhawks teammate Brent Seabrook out of a game in Anaheim on March 17. … The Kings have won three of the five meetings this season, with the last one coming up Tuesday in Anaheim. … Quick’s next game will make him the first Kings goalie to play in at least 70 since 2001-02, when Felix Potvin made 71 appearances. … Anaheim had 30 or more shots for the 15th time in 17 games. … The Ducks had one more point in March than the Kings (15-14), despite playing one fewer game. … The only time the Kings shut out the Ducks was on April 14, 2002.