LOS ANGELES – If the Los Angeles Kings learned anything from their latest showdown with the Anaheim Ducks, it’s that no lead is safe against a desperate team.
Dustin Brown scored the go-ahead goal with 5:32 left after Los Angeles blew a three-goal lead in the third period and the Kings tied a franchise record with their eighth straight victory, beating the Ducks 6-4 on Thursday night.
“It’s definitely not how we wanted to win. It shows we cannot let up in the third period,” said Anze Kopitar, who led the way with two goals and two assists. “We need to shut these games down. But the game is not played in 10 minutes. It’s a 60-minute game, and we got the job done.”
Defenceman Jack Johnson had a goal and three assists for his first four-point game in the NHL, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Handzus also scored, and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves to help the Kings beat their Southern California rivals for the fifth straight time.
At 35-19-3, the Kings are off to their best start after 57 games since 1980-81.
“We have a lot of confidence,” defenceman Matt Greene said. “Guys are finding their game and taking hold of it. Our top players are all doing it.”
Quick has been in net for all eight wins, breaking the franchise record for the longest winning streak by a goalie. The previous mark was shared by Kelly Hrudey (1991-92) and backup Robb Stauber (1992-93).
Quick, who stopped all 22 shots in a 4-0 win at Staples Center the last time the teams met, is 13-3-0 in his last 16 games. His 33rd victory gave him the league lead by one over New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, and put him within two wins of the club record set in 1980-81 by Mario Lessard.
The Kings appeared to be in bad shape after first-line right wing Justin Williams broke his right leg during a 2-1 loss at Phoenix on Dec. 26. They dropped their next two games as well, both by one-goal margins, but are 12-4-0 since and have climbed into fourth in the Western Conference.
“We are trying to finish as high as we can in the standings and play as well as we can,” defenceman Matt Greene said. “It’s not often that you have a group of 10-15 guys playing their ‘A’ game all at the same time. Usually it’s more spread out. I think now we have a lot of guys playing at the top of their game and it’s showing in our results.
Jason Blake, Troy Bodie, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Carter scored for the Ducks, who came in on an 11-4-0 tear that included three straight wins. Ryan Getzlaf had two assists, and Jonas Hiller made 28 saves. The teams conclude their home-and-home set Monday night, when the Ducks will attempt to tie the franchise record of 10 consecutive home wins.
“We can’t win hockey games giving up six goals. It’s as simple as that,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “We worked hard, but we just seemed like we ran out of gas at the end. That’s the sign of a tired group. We came off a 13-day road trip and played last night against Detroit and then came in here.”
Johnson extended the Kings’ margin to 4-1 less than two minutes into the third period, using Handzus as a screen and beating Hiller to the glove side. The sellout crowd quickly went into a derisive chant of “Hil-ler! Hil-ler!” But it didn’t last long, as Bodi and Beleskey scored 2:01 apart.
Beleskey’s sixth of the season came with 14:48 to play, leaving Anaheim with plenty of time to get the equalizer. Carter completed the comeback against a Kings squad that came in 21-0-0 when leading after two periods, scoring his second goal of the season on an easy tap-in after Todd Marchant circled the net with the puck and slid it in front.
Brown put the Kings ahead to stay with his 14th goal, converting a rebound into a gaping net after Hiller made and arm save on Kopitar and couldn’t scramble back in time. Kopitar ended the scoring with 27 seconds to go, while Getzlaf was serving a tripping penalty.
“We just seemed to have moments where we didn’t play the way we needed to and we made mistakes with the puck,” Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer said. “The Kings probably felt that they did, too, but not as many as us – and that was the difference.”
NOTES: The Kings also won eight straight games during the 1972-73 and 1991-92 seasons. … Anaheim D Ryan Whitney was added to Team USA’s roster for the Olympics. He is one of eight Ducks players who will compete in the Winter Games, tying San Jose for the most of any NHL club.