ANAHEIM, Calif. – Round one in hockey’s version of the Freeway Series went to the Los Angeles Kings, who spent the previous four seasons green with envy while the Anaheim Ducks made annual trips to the post-season and won a Stanley Cup in the process.
For the time being, it seems the tables might be turning. The Kings have emerged as Southern California’s top team, and Tuesday night they pulled out a 4-3 victory in their rival’s rink when defenceman Jack Johnson scored with 2:20 left in the third period.
Anaheim is seven points out of a playoff spot, while the Kings are trying to make the post-season for the first time since 2002. They have never been in the playoffs in the same season, and the Kings’ only trip to the Stanley Cup final was 1993 – the season before the NHL expanded to Anaheim.
“The rivalry is heating up,” said Kings coach Terry Murray, in his second season with the team. “It’s always a good game whenever the Kings play the Ducks. There is good intensity and good players on both teams. The way the game went, we got a lead, they come back and tie it up. They’ve got great players that respond well to the challenge. It made for a fun game.”
Scott Parse and Justin Williams had first-period goals for the Kings and Randy Jones connected in the second. Jonathan Quick made 27 saves.
Corey Perry had a goal and an assist for Anaheim to extend his point streak to 19 games, tied for the longest by an NHL player since Paul Stastny’s 20-game run for Colorado in 2006-07. Sidney Crosby also had a 19-game streak for Pittsburgh two seasons ago.
Ryan Whitney and Todd Marchant also scored and Jonas Hiller made 38 saves for the Ducks, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie it. They finished their homestand 4-2-1 and are 10 points behind fifth-place Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings.
The Kings went back in front when Johnson got the puck from Jones and took a one-timer from the right point that beat Hiller through a maze of players for his third goal of the season and first game-winner in 148 NHL games.
The Ducks got a power-play opportunity after Johnson was sent off for cross-checking rookie Matt Beleskey with 1:35 to play, but came up empty despite a number of close calls.
“I think every single person in the building knew they were going to come hard after that,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. “Unfortunately, we take a penalty, and our penalty killers had to come up big.”
Trailing 2-0 before a crowd of 14,231 at the 17,174-seat Honda Center, the Ducks got on the board at 14:41 of the first when Perry tipped in James Wisniewski’s wrist shot from just inside the blue line to snap a personal eight-game goal drought.
Jones restored the Kings’ two-goal margin at 6:40 of the second, beating Hiller high to the stick side with a 35-foot slap shot from above the left circle.
But staggered penalties to Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds gave Anaheim a 5-on-3 power play for 15 seconds, and Whitney beat Quick high to the glove side at 17:28 of the period with a one-timer just three seconds after the first penalty expired. Ryan Getzlaf got an assist for his 300th NHL point.
Marchant got the game-tying goal with 14:31 left, beating defenceman Matt Greene to a rebound after Beleskey took a shot that struck Quick on the chest. The assist was Beleskey’s first NHL point.
“We gave ourselves a chance. Todd Marchant goes out and gets us a goal that was a huge emotional boost for us,” teammate Bobby Ryan said. “But they came right down and scored not too long afterwards. We’ve done that numerous times this year. It’s something we’ve addressed and gone over a number of times, but it seems to keep happening.”
Parse opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first with his second NHL goal. Williams made it 2-0 at 11:33.
“The Ducks have a good team over there, so it helps when you jump on them real quick,” Kopitar said. “We were fortunate to score a quick two goals. I thought we controlled the game from there. They got back in the third period, but we didn’t lose it. We kept going and we got rewarded in the end.”
NOTES: Anaheim LW Kyle Calder, who on Nov. 16 became the 19th player to play for the Ducks and Kings during the regular season, missed his second straight game after getting hit by a deflected puck in practice. … The Ducks, who began the day with the league’s second-best power-play percentage (24.5), are 11 for 28 with the man advantage in their last seven games. … The Kings are 10-0-0 when leading after two periods.