ANAHEIM, Calif. – Thousands of boisterous Los Angeles Kings fans filled their nearest rivals’ rink with chants and cheers from the opening faceoff, backing the Stanley Cup champions with a bit more brazenness than usual.
By the time Nick Bonino and the Anaheim Ducks were through with them, the champion Kings realized they aren’t even the best hockey team in Southern California right now.
Bonino scored his third goal on a power play with 11:21 to play, and the surging Ducks beat Los Angeles 7-4 on Saturday night in the first Freeway Faceoff of the season.
Bonino scored two goals in the first six minutes to chase Jonathan Quick before completing his first career hat trick against Jonathan Bernier. Kyle Palmieri scored the tiebreaking power-play goal, and Teemu Selanne put his 666th career goal into an empty net to cap another powerful offensive game by the Ducks, who have won five of seven to start a promising season.
“It was a really emotional game for us, and a huge rivalry,” said Palmieri, who has three goals in two games. “Emotion like that can drive you through back-to-back (games), and we came alive in the third period, protected a lead and stayed right on top of them.”
Anaheim missed the playoffs last spring before the eighth-seeded Kings rolled to their first Stanley Cup triumph. The Ducks won California’s first NHL title in 2007, and their fans had taken to chanting “Stanley Cup! Stanley Cup!” at the Kings faithful in nearly every rivalry meeting.
Now that the rivals both have Cup championships, they’ll have to count something else—and Anaheim had more of everything.
“When the crowd hates each other as much as that, and it gets that loud, that’s what this sport is all about,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought it was cool.”
During the NHL lockout, Bonino got his first hat trick since high school while playing for a second-division team in Italy. This shower of hats onto the ice meant a bit more for the grinding forward, who earned an assist on Selanne’s goal for his first career four-point performance.
“I haven’t scored a ton of goals in my career so far, so it feels real good to get three here,” said Bonino, who had six goals in his first 91 NHL games scattered over four seasons.
Emerson Etem, Bobby Ryan and Luca Sbisa each had two assists for Anaheim, and captain Ryan Getzlaf and Sheldon Souray also scored. Etem had assists on both of Bonino’s goals, the first points for the Long Beach, Calif., native who made his NHL debut last Tuesday.
Jonas Hiller stopped 30 shots in his first victory since Jan. 21, but the Ducks also lost defenceman Cam Fowler in the second period to an upper-body injury on a hit by Jarret Stoll, who appeared to drive Fowler into the boards from behind.
“He’s not feeling very good right now,” Boudreau said of Fowler. “Stoll hit him pretty good from behind. (The NHL) has to look at that. He might be OK, or he might be out for a while. … He was sort of KO’d.”
Captain Dustin Brown scored two power-play goals for the Kings, who struggled in their first trip to Honda Center as the defending champions. Stoll and Justin Williams also scored, but the Kings (2-3-2) never led.
“Generally we’re a pretty good defensive team, but we gave up a lot of really good scoring chances,” Brown said. “I don’t think we go into any game thinking we’re going to have a 7-4 outcome, one way or another. That’s not how we play the game, but tonight we weren’t playing hard enough in the key areas of the ice. I think we should use this game as a wakeup call. We should use this as motivation to be better.”
Los Angeles won five of the six meetings last season in the Freeway Faceoff series, which features only four games in this lockout-shortened season. The first meeting was a beauty filled with big hits, chippy play, aggressive offence and power-play proficiency from both teams.
Quick yielded Bonino’s two goals on the Ducks’ first three shots before coach Darryl Sutter pulled his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie 5:49 in for Bernier, who stopped 17 shots in his season debut.
“They were probably jacked up (for a) home game against the defending Stanley Cup champions and their interstate rival,” Kings forward Dustin Penner said. “We’re pretty disappointed. We have to prepare better as a team. What we did last year won’t be enough this year, and we know that.”
NOTES: Bonino is the 14th Anaheim player to record one of the Ducks’ 39 hat tricks in franchise history. … With two power-play goals, Brown caught and passed NHL scoring king Wayne Gretzky for seventh place in Kings history. Brown has 63 man-advantage goals in 602 games. Gretzky had 62 in 539 games with Los Angeles. … The Kings hadn’t scored a road power-play goal this season, going 0 for 18.