ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings once again showed they can hold on to a one-goal lead even if it took them time to shake off the pesky Anaheim Ducks.
Willie Mitchell scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, giving the Kings a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night in the 99th meeting between the rivals.
Mitchell snapped a 2-2 tie with just his second goal of the season and first since Oct. 28 at Dallas. His slapshot from the top of the left circle sailed through traffic and found the top right corner at 6:45.
Los Angeles won five-of-seven one-goal games on its 10-game road trip.
“That is something we are starting to do a better job of because we are not a high-scoring team,” Mitchell said. “That is something we really have to focus on and have it be the strength of our hockey club.”
The win allowed the Kings to close their trip with a 6-1-3 record, moving ahead of the Ducks in the tightly bunched Western Conference playoff race. The Kings are in sixth place, tied with Minnesota, Nashville and Calgary with 70 points each.
“Ever since they brought the shootout in and the extra point, it has just gotten so much tighter,” Kings right wing Justin Williams said. “There are a lot of one-goal games, just like tonight, and it’s going to be like that from here on out.”
Anaheim played without captain Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu, who tweaked his groin muscle in practice Monday.
“Those are tough guys to step in and fill voids for,” right-winger Bobby Ryan said. “But the guys did a good job and we had our chances.
“We got the puck to the net and there were rebounds to be had. So the outcome could have been a little bit different, but the guys worked hard.”
The Kings twice took one-goal leads only to watch the Ducks tie it up.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 25 saves for his 28th victory. Curtis McElhinney stopped 15 shots for the Ducks, who lost their fourth in a row.
“It’s been a great road trip,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “That’s 15 points out of a possible 20, that’s a nice road trip.
“It’s important that we keep our focus on how that happened—the hard work, the intensity, the concentration every game to bring it every day and do things right.”
Corey Perry’s slapshot from near the blue-line tied it 2-2 for Anaheim at 10:05 of the penalty-free second. Perry’s 31st goal was his sixth in eight games.
“They did a good job of blocking lanes and keeping guys from going to the net. With the exception of Corey’s goal, Quick had a pretty easy night,” Ryan said. “He didn’t have a lot of traffic in front of him.
“They have some big defenceman that clog that area pretty well and get you out of there. We didn’t spend enough time in the dangerous areas.”
The Kings started the game slowly, with no shots on goal in the first 10:06. That’s when Anaheim’s Kyle Chipchura and the Kings’ Kyle Clifford received five-minute fighting penalties, and the action was on.
Perhaps energized by the bout, Ryan Smyth scored to give the Kings a 1-0 lead at 12:13 of the first. His stick hit the rebound in mid-air off McElhinney’s pad for his 20th goal.
Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne notched his 20th goal 1:19 later, connecting with a slapshot from the left side near the blue-line that tied the game. He has recorded points in eight of the past nine games.
“There were a couple of bad bounces, but what are you going to do?” Selanne said. “What we’ve got to do now is stay positive.
“It was tough to play with our two best centres out, but there’s no excuses.”
The Kings regained a 2-1 lead when Anze Kopitar was perfectly positioned for a rebound that he sent in past McElhinney’s left skate at 17:09.
NOTES—Getzlaf missed the game to be with his wife, who gave birth to their nine-pound son, Ryder James Getzlaf, earlier Thursday. … Selanne’s goal was his 626th, putting him 14th on the career scoring list. … The Kings improved to 45-36-18 all time against the Ducks. Los Angeles leads the season series 2-1 with three meetings left. … Anaheim opened a season-long seven-game homestand. … The Kings activated F Marco Sturm from injured reserve and he started the game. He missed the previous 13 games because of a lower body injury. … The Ducks recalled G Ray Emery from the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch and re-assigned G Timo Pielmeier to the Crunch.