ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mike Richards’ short-handed, empty-net goal travelled nearly the length of the ice and hit the back of Anaheim’s net with a slight ping, effectively signalling the end of the Los Angeles Kings’ early-season struggles.
The Ducks are still searching for the way out of their season-long woes, and two straight losses in the Freeway Faceoff only made it worse.
Anze Kopitar scored the tiebreaking goal on his own rebound with 3:01 to play, and the Kings blew a two-goal lead in the final minutes of the third period before rallying to beat the Ducks 5-3 Thursday night for back-to-back victories over their I-5 rivals.
Richards finished off the Ducks with his second goal of the night with 1:38 left for the Kings, who have won four of five after a five-game skid. Aside from a third-period defensive stumble, everything worked for Los Angeles a day after its 2-1 shootout victory over Anaheim at Staples Center.
“We’ve always played pretty well in this building, and two wins against these guys really builds our confidence,” said Kopitar, who scored his team-leading ninth goal. “We know they’re our rivals, and it always feels good to finish like this.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 35 shots to beat Anaheim for the second straight night, and Simon Gagne scored a short-handed goal and set up rookie Slava Voynov’s second-period score. Voynov, Kopitar and Gagne each had a goal and an assist.
After Anaheim scored a late goal to force overtime at Staples Center one night earlier, the Ducks again tied it late on Andrew Cogliano’s redirection of Luca Sbisa’s shot with 6:25 left.
A few minutes later, Kopitar capitalized on a defensive breakdown and circled the net for his go-ahead goal. Richards then easily scored during 6-on-4 play with 1:38 left.
“We knew these two games were going to be huge for us,” said Gagne, who has seven goals in 17 games with his new club. “We’re really happy with what we did and where we’ve come from already this season. We knew what we did in the first 10 games wasn’t enough.”
The Kings also got an offensive boost from Richards, who has five goals in five games with his new team. The former Philadelphia captain also got the Kings’ only regulation score against the Ducks on Wednesday.
Cogliano scored two goals for Anaheim, and backup goalie Dan Ellis made 31 saves. Corey Perry scored a third-period goal for the struggling Ducks, who have lost 12 of 14.
“We showed a lot of good things tonight and we have to continue to build on those things,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who has just 10 points in 19 games. “I’m confident in this group, and if we keep working the way we are, we’ll turn things around. It wasn’t one of those things where I thought we had a lack of effort. … We battled back as hard as we could and got the big goals when we needed them.”
The Kings went ahead late in the second period when a power-play turnover left Gagne alone on a breakaway. Voynov then easily converted Gagne’s clever setup pass early in the third period for his third goal in seven games with the Kings. The Russian defenceman is angling for a permanent spot on the Kings’ blue line while Alec Martinez is out with an injury.
But Perry trimmed the Kings’ lead with 11:36 to play when his rebound popped into the air and underneath Quick while Perry charged the net. Last season’s league MVP has seven goals in 19 games after leading the NHL with 50 goals last season.
Cogliano’s second goal doubled his total in the first 18 games of his first season with the Ducks.
“That’s the most frustrating part, to tie the game late and give up the winning goal with four minutes left,” Cogliano said. “We let it slip away and gave them two points, but you can’t hang your head. You’ve got to move on and take some positives out of it, but at the end of the day, you’re not getting the points at a critical time right now.”
NOTES: New Anaheim LW Niklas Hagman got his American work visa earlier Thursday and immediately joined the lineup, playing more than 10 minutes. The Ducks claimed the three-time Finnish Olympian off waivers from Calgary last week. … A snap shot by Justin Williams hit Ducks D Cam Fowler in the head late in the second period, but Fowler was OK after spending a moment face-down on the ice. … The start of the third period was delayed for about 17 minutes while the arena lights were repaired. The teams skated and stretched during the interim.