LOS ANGELES – Now that he’s back on the ice, Patrick O’Sullivan’s only concern is trying to get the Los Angeles Kings back into the playoffs after a five-year drought.
O’Sullivan scored the tying goal on a power play after teammate Jason LaBarbera gave up a pair of early goals, and the Kings beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 Tuesday night for their first victory of the season. Jarret Stoll and Tom Preissing also scored with the man advantage, and Wayne Simmonds got his first NHL goal for Los Angeles.
O’Sullivan had 22 goals and 31 assists last season while the Kings finished tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest points in the overall standings. The 23-year-old center sat out training camp during a contract holdout and signed a three-year, $8.775 million deal on Oct. 7.
“The contract is not something I think about at all,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m just like any other guy on the team. Unfortunately, I had a contract dispute. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t have anything to do with hockey. Every day that goes by, it becomes less and less of a factor.
“I’m not worried about the pressure,” he added. “Obviously, I’m counted on to do a lot of things for this team, and I know that. But I’m confident in what I’m able to do. The best thing for me is that I’m starting to get to know the new guys a little better, because I missed that part of training camp as well – not only the hockey side of it, but meeting the new guys and becoming a team.”
The Kings are 1-2 under new coach Terry Murray, who replaced Marc Crawford. It was their first game since second-year defenseman Jack Johnson sustained a shoulder injury that is expected to sideline him through the All-Star break at least.
Brian Sutherby and Todd Marchant scored first-period goals for the Ducks, who are off to an 0-3 start after back-to-back 100-point seasons and a Stanley Cup title in 2007.
“It’s not rust. There’s no viable excuses. We’re just not working as a team,” said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has allowed 13 goals on 87 shots in three starts. “We need to work together and rely on each other and be confident that the guy beside you is going to do his job. Right now we’re just lacking that confidence.”
Teemu Selanne also scored for the Ducks. Eight of the nine goal scorers got their first of the season except for Alexander Frolov, who scored his second into an empty net with 1:12 remaining.
Despite failing to capitalize on a two-man advantage midway through the second period, the Kings converted two of three power plays to take a 3-2 lead with 43 seconds left in the period.
O’Sullivan jumped on a loose puck in the right corner and skated out in front of the net. Nathan McIver chopped down on O’Sullivan’s stick as O’Sullivan tried to jam the puck past Giguere, and it caromed into the net off the skate of Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger with 7 seconds left on Brendan Morrison’s hooking penalty.
The undisciplined Ducks were assessed their fifth consecutive minor penalty after Giguere was called for a hooking infraction with O’Sullivan skating through the crease. Stoll capitalized 56 seconds later with a one-timer from the top of the right circle that beat Giguere high to the glove side.
“We can’t win taking so many penalties. We’ve got to be careful,” Giguere said. “It seems that too many times we get undisciplined. Then we get frustrated, start giving up goals and it just down downhill for there. So we’ve got to be a lot smarter, in that sense.”
Matt Moulson made it 4-2 just 51 seconds into the third with a short wrist shot over Giguere’s glove, and Preissing got the Kings’ fifth goal with 9:08 to play, beating Giguere through a screen with a slap shot from the right point while Ryan Getzlaf was off for cross-checking.
Anaheim scored on two of its first three shots on net. Sutherby scored at 1:46 and Marchant connected from the left circle at 7:12 of the first after Samuel Pahlsson backhanded the puck to him from behind the net.
Simmonds, a second-round pick in the 2007 draft, got the Kings on the board just 33 seconds later on an assist from Sean O’Donnell.
The teams split the eight meetings last season, but the Ducks finished 31 points ahead of their Southern California rivals. They will face each other six times this season.
Notes: The crowd of 14,451 observed a moment of silence for Alexei Cherepanov, the New York Rangers’ 19-year-old first-round draft pick in 2007, who died during a Continental Hockey League game in Russia. … Anaheim C Rob Niedermayer was scratched because of a bruised foot, which he injured when he was struck by a shot taken by brother Scott in Sunday’s game against Phoenix.