LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Open ice and scoring chances were awfully scarce in the final Freeway Faceoff of the regular season, with Los Angeles and Anaheim both thinking about their post-season position and concentrating on playoff-style hockey.
Drew Doughty and the Kings made the most of what little they got.
Doughty had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Quick made 19 saves and the Kings crept closer to the Ducks atop the Pacific Division standings with a 2-1 victory Saturday night.
Mike Richards scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period as the defending Stanley Cup champions solidified their grip on a top-four seed in the Western Conference by holding off the powerful Ducks, who have lost two straight.
“Both teams were checking hard, playing well defensively and making sure they weren’t making any mistakes or turnovers,” Doughty said. “When two teams are doing that to the best of their ability, it’s hard to create.”
Los Angeles (24-14-4) trails division-leading Anaheim (27-10-5) by seven points with six games to play. The clubs split their four-game Freeway Faceoff series, with the home team winning each time.
But defence dominated until the third period at Staples Center. There wasn’t much of the frenetic energy of last weekend’s meeting in Anaheim, won 4-3 in a shootout by the Ducks.
“Everybody wants to make that big rivalry about the Ducks,” Doughty said. “There definitely is one, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Perhaps only a playoff series would change that: Fans already are hoping the Kings and Ducks will meet in the post-season for the first time in their 20 years together in the NHL.
Southern California’s two teams are enjoying their strongest simultaneous season, with Anaheim sitting in second place in the West for most of the season and the Kings closing in on a top-four seed for their title defence.
“I liked our team,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “We just finished seven of 11 on the road, (along with a trip to) the White House, and managed to still win our home games while we were doing it. Without having one day off anywhere there, with all that travelling, I think all of our guys did a good job.”
Ryan Getzlaf scored a short-handed goal and Viktor Fasth stopped 16 shots for the Ducks, who have lost in their past five trips to Staples Center. Anaheim is still in prime position for a strong playoff run, but coach Bruce Boudreau is worried about his club’s offence after second straight one-goal performance.
“We’re not scoring any goals,” Boudreau said. “Nobody is scoring any goals. Just look at the numbers of guys that haven’t scored in a long time now.”
Indeed, Bobby Ryan has one goal in 13 games, Saku Koivu and David Steckel haven’t scored in 15 games, and Daniel Winnik hasn’t scored in 19 games.
“We’ve got to get back to winning,” Boudreau said. “We want to start to get back to playing our best hockey by the time the playoffs start, and we’ve got to do that with a couple of wins. All of a sudden our sense of urgency has picked up, so we’ll get back to practicing.”
After finishing a brutal stretch of 26 games in 46 days with an ugly loss to Colorado on Wednesday, the Ducks finally got their first consecutive days without games since late February. Anaheim didn’t exactly bounce back swiftly from two days of practice, getting just one shot in the first period.
“They’re playing pretty well,” Getzlaf said of the Kings. “There’s a reason they’ve got back to where they are in the second half of the season. We played pretty well, too. We held them to two shots in the second period, and one of them went in.”
Los Angeles went ahead when Doughty’s slap shot from straightaway hit at least one Anaheim player in front before skittering under Fasth. The Kings’ $56 million defenceman got his fourth goal in five games after getting just one in the first 37 outings this season.
Anaheim’s second shot was a beauty by Getzlaf, who scored his team-leading 14th goal.
The Ducks’ captain blocked Jake Muzzin’s shot on a power play and then chased the puck into Los Angeles’ end, where Quick made a foolhardy move to play the puck. Getzlaf avoided the diving Quick and two defenders, putting a sharp-angled shot into Quick’s net for just the fourth short-handed goal of his career.
Ryan appeared to put the Ducks ahead moments later when Emerson Etem’s backhand off the crossbar deflected off his leg and into the net, but the NHL waved off the goal on video review, saying Ryan had kicked it in.
The Kings couldn’t manage a shot during four minutes of power play time later in the period, but Richards put the Kings ahead late in the period with an exceptional wrist shot through traffic, finding a tiny opening behind Fasth for his 11th goal of the season.
NOTES: Richards scored against Anaheim in his ninth straight game. … Anaheim scratched C Matthew Lombardi, acquired last week in a trade with Phoenix. Lombardi is scoreless with a minus-2 rating in four games with the Ducks. Veteran RW Radek Dvorak returned to the lineup. … D Cam Fowler also sat out with an upper-body injury after getting hurt early in the Ducks’ last game. … Getzlaf scored the fourth short-handed goal of his career.