LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Freeway Faceoff seemed certain to be a drag race this season, with Southern California’s NHL clubs both loaded with topflight talent and playoff ambition.
Although the Kings and Ducks haven’t really warmed up yet, perhaps a seven-round shootout in their first head-to-head matchup can get these engines going.
Jonathan Quick made 23 saves before stopping six of Anaheim’s seven shootout attempts, and Justin Williams atoned for his costly penalty late in regulation with the winner in the last round of Los Angeles’ 2-1 victory over the slumping Ducks on Wednesday night.
Williams’ wrist shot over the glove of stalwart Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller punctuated the Kings’ win in the first of back-to-back meetings in this long-lukewarm rivalry between clubs separated by about 50 kilometres of the I-5 freeway. Both teams made the playoffs in the same season last spring for the time since the Ducks joined the league in 1993, with Anaheim roaring past Los Angeles to the No. 4 seed by sweeping another back-to-back miniseries to end the regular season.
It’s not yet a classic NHL rivalry, but players on both sides hope it’s moving that way—and tense shootouts certainly help.
“For it to be like a Montreal-Boston type of thing, you need it to have that type of history,” Williams said. “You need to have those battles in the playoffs, where you say, ‘You remember that Kings and Ducks series in 2012?’ You need to have that type of memory, but it’s a rivalry for us and it’s a rivalry for our fans, and if both teams can succeed, it’s certainly going to be good for Southern California.”
Mike Richards scored during a two-man advantage in the second period for the Kings, but Quick lost his bid for his 18th NHL shutout when Teemu Selanne tied it on a power-play goal with 3:25 left in regulation. Hiller made 36 saves while single-handedly keeping it close for the Ducks, who have lost 11 of 13.
“It’s definitely frustrating to lose in a shootout again,” Hiller said. “Those points might cost us in the end, and we sure wish it wouldn’t have been to a division rival.”
They will meet Thursday night in Anaheim.
Both teams have more than enough talent to be contenders again, yet they have both struggled during the first six weeks of the regular season after lengthy European tours. Anaheim has plummeted to 13th place in the Western Conference, while Los Angeles has scuffled at .500 for most of the season.
“Any time we play them, it’s a battle,” Williams said. “They’re always a tough opponent, especially later in the year when we’re battling for playoff spots. We got a little revenge from last year and we want to take these four points.”
Quick fell just shy of his fourth shutout in 15 games this season after Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler drew a tripping penalty on Williams that left the Kings wondering about its legitimacy. Selanne fired a shot from the right circle right at Corey Perry’s screen, and the Finnish Flash got credit for his 643rd career goal, although the NHL MVP might have redirected it past Quick.
“Unfortunately for me, I took a penalty late, so there’s a little satisfaction getting one in the shootout,” Williams said. “I’m glad I was given the opportunity by Terry to go in there and try to get that extra point for us, because I felt somewhat responsible—sitting in the penalty box when they tied it up.”
Jarret Stoll scored the first shootout goal in the third round, but captain Ryan Getzlaf answered for the Ducks. After three more scoreless rounds, Williams beat Hiller, and Quick stopped Kurtis Foster.
“We didn’t really get our game going until the last half of the hockey game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “Our goaltender was called on to make some big stops. If we work as hard as we did in the second half of the game, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for us.”
Los Angeles took a season-high 17 shots in the first period, but the Swiss goalie turned them away. The Kings didn’t score until their 26th shot, with Richards putting home a rebound midway through the second period. The former Philadelphia captain is heating up on the West Coast with three goals in four games after managing two in his first 14.
The Ducks thought they had tied it early in the third when the puck ended up behind Quick on a rush by Getzlaf, but video review confirmed Getzlaf had slyly batted a rebound past Quick with his open hand.
“The way we outplayed them was great,” Quick said. “We did everything right the whole game. I wish I had that one goal back there so they wouldn’t have gotten that point. That extra point is huge.”
NOTES: New Ducks F Niklas Hagman attended the game, but he’s still working on getting an American work visa. Anaheim claimed the Finnish Olympian off waivers from Calgary last week. … Kings D Jack Johnson played in his 300th NHL game, getting an assist on Richards’ goal. Seven of his nine points this season came on the power play.