Game 57: Kings 6, Ducks 4
Thursday night’s, which has been lovingly dubbed the SoCal Salchow by my podcast partner Jesse, shaped up to be a real slobberknocker.
Coming into the Staples Center were the Anaheim Ducks, winners of three in a row. The Ducks got an influx of scoring when they acquired Jason Blake from Toronto, and with Teemu Selanne back from his jaw injury, the Ducks now have two legit top lines.
The Kings’ success is well-reported here, especially their 21-0 when leading after two periods. But the Ducks have a unique stat on their side: they share the league lead with the Kings in winning games when trailing after two periods. That stat would come back to haunt the Kings in the third period.
As the game started, the Ducks took charge and stormed out to an early lead, when Jason Blake snuck on past Kings goalie Jonathon Quick. Throughout the first 10 minutes, the Kings looked sluggish and out of sync. In fact, this was what I expected on Tuesday when they played the Rangers.
But the Kings got their groove back, when the Kings’ Anze Kopitar scored to tie it up. They proceeded to reel off three more goals (from Wayne Simmonds, Michal Handzus and Jack Johnson) to take charge of the contest. And the Kings were well on their way to improving their record to 22-0-0 when leading after two periods.
I hate to make this tired analogy, but it’s my blog so tough crap. This being Hollywood, the Ducks came back with a vengeance. Anaheim rallied with three straight goals from Troy Bodie, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Carter to tie the game. Like the Kings’ Anaheim has found secondary scoring in their lower lines to keep teams honest.
For five excruciating minutes, the Ducks and the Kings went toe-to-toe in some of the most spirited hockey I’ve seen between these two clubs. And when Kopitar stole the puck behind the Ducks net and shot on Hiller, the resulting rebound found it’s way to Dustin Brown’s stick to break the deadlock. Staples breathed a sigh of relief.
And in a great shift klilling off time with under 2 minutes left, Ryan Getzlaf tripped up Brown to give the Kings a power play. And it was Anze Kopitar who popped one past Hiller for the nail in the coffin. He had four points on the night (2 goals, 2 assists), which tied his career high for points in row with eight in a row, and now tied for first in the league lead in power play points (with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos).
Another player who had a career game was Jack Johnson, who had his first four-point game (1G, 3A). Johnson has quietly had himself a career year and has recently turned a corner. Fans seem to focus on plus/minus, which is a worthless stat, since it’s based on the other players on the ice. The Lombardi diss drama seems to have focused the Michigan native, and he is playing smarter.
Eight in a row is indeed rarified air, but I’m not too happy they way the Kings lost their three-goal buffer in 11 minutes. It shows that even though these Kings have much more to learn about keeping pressure on. There is NO reason they should’ve even let the Ducks sniff a tie Thursday.
The Kings face off against Detroit next, who comes into Staples Center. Let’s see just how many Detroit fans show up in their red jerseys this game…
Quick, who stopped all 22 shots in a 4-0 win at Staples Center the last time the teams met, is 13-3-0 in his last 16 games. His 33rd victory gave him the league lead by one over New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, and put him within two wins of the club record set in 1980-81 by Mario Lessard.
It was yet another lesson for the Kings, who have been model students while absorbing a lot of new material. “We made it a little more interesting than we would have liked to at the end,” Johnson said.
• LAKings.com: Eight is great
The Kings have tied the franchise record with eight consecutive victories, a level previously reached during the 1991-92 and 1972-73, and they have also moved ahead of Phoenix and into fourth place in the Western Conference with 25 games remaining.
• NHL.com: Kings top Ducks 6-4 for 8th win in a row
The loss ended Anaheim’s three-game winning streak. The Ducks are 11-5-0 in their last 16 games and remained three points out of a playoff berth. The Kings and Ducks have never qualified for the playoffs in the same season since Anaheim entered the NHL in 1993.
“I don’t know if I got away from playing my game. I sure tried it, but maybe it was not working for me,” said Kopitar, who needed 12 games to score his first 10 goals, but 39 to score his next 10. “My mindset wasn’t any different than it was from the start of the season. You go through ups and downs and great players don’t let those downs be more than just a couple of games. That’s the thing that I still have to work on.”
They said it
“It’s one of those nights when the bounces are going a little bit your way. The first goal, it wasn’t anything special. It was just putting the puck on net. The assist to Brownie was a little bit lucky. It doesn’t matter if I get four points or zero points as long as we, as a team, get two points. That’s the most important thing.” – Anze Kopitar, on his four-point game
“I think it was a combination. There were some great plays, and we had a couple defensive lapses. We’ve got to tighten up defensively. We gave ourselves a great lead and put ourselves in great position. We made it a little more interesting than we’d like to at the end.” – Jack Johnson, on whether the Ducks improved or the Kings let up
“The Kopitar line had a big responsibility tonight, playing against one of the premier lines in the league. I liked what happened in the last 10 minutes of the third period. There was a lot of dig-in by Kopitar and that line. There was a real battle going on before the fifth goal was scored. It was hard, it was heavy. There were two big men battling against each other, and we ended up scoring on it. Yeah, they did a real big job for us tonight.” – Terry Murray, on the play of the Kopitar line
Around the Kingdom
• The Royal Half: On the move
The only thing better than perpetual trade bait Simmonds, Brown and Johnson having excellent games was the fact that Anze Kopitar is a King for 7 more years. Kopitar had 2 beautiful goals and 2 beautiful assists tonight and he is now the 10th leading scorer in the NHL. Oh, and he also happens to lead the NHL with 27 Power Play points.
• Throne Room: 8 straight: Duck Hunting
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s pretty obvious by now that the Kings OWN Anaheim this season. 3 games so far (and 3 wins)have shown them to be a superior hockey team. The Ducks are on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in, and all the sudden Honda Center is mostly empty except for road fans most game nights. Not that anybody is really surprised at that.
• MayorsManor: Attn: Ducks fans
Change your jersey. Change your colors. Let everybody in the arena wear orange – like they just escaped from a CalTrans chain gang. It doesn’t matter. You’re still cheering for the Ducks.
• HockeyBuzz’s Matthew Barry: Kings With 8th Straight – Beat Ducks 6-4
The Kings were content to run out the clock, but Jack Johnson saw an opportunity when he saw Handzus planted in front again. The shot rang of his nether regions, bounced to Kopitar who had an open net, his 2nd goal of the game and his 4th point of the night to seal the victory.
• Inside Hockey: Freeway faceoff indeed
“I don’t look up the history of the team in these situations. You’re supposed to win games,” added Murray. “That’s our job — to win 82 games.” (Ed. note: Well, technically it’s to win the Stanley Cup. Winning 82 games might insure the President’s Cup, but I’d rather have Lord Stanley’s Cup)
• LA Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond: Last thoughts on non-trade
When it came down to it, Lombardi simply didn’t want to break up the locker room, especially for a player who might walk in three months anyway. There’s still, of course, the option that Kovalchuk could sign during the summer, presuming he intends to keep playing in the NHL. It’s been a fascinating story, and it’s definitely not done yet.
• ESPNLosAngeles.com: Kings GM Lombardi: ‘We’re building like the Twins and the Oakland A’s’
“I’m a buyer,” he said, smacking his hand on the armrest of his chair, “and I will try and improve this team if the right guy is there. But, it’s got to be the right player and I’d like it to fit in the future.”
From across the aisle, the Anaheim viewpoint
• OC Register: Kings hold off Ducks
The Ducks aren’t doing anything against either of their fiercest competitors. They’ve gone 0-7 against the Kings and San Jose Sharks this season and it’s a large reason why they are a miserable 3-12-2 against the Pacific Division.
• DucksBlog: Fatigue catches up with Ducks
“We worked hard and we just seemed like we ran out of gas in the end,” Coach Randy Carlyle said. “Fundamentally, we made a couple of mistakes that gave them an opportunity to attack in (the neutral zone) for the fifth goal. That’s a sign of a tired group.”
• Anaheim Calling: Open Gameday Recap
Jonas Hiller on the other hand, got lit up. It wasn’t all his fault, seeing as how his vision was constantly impaired by Michael Handzus’ backside. The Ducks inability to clear the front of the net was ultimately their undoing tonight. It’s hard to tell if the Ducks were owned by the Kings, or if they just didn’t fight for the full 60 minutes. Either way. It’s two points they won’t pick up in the standings.
Peeping the dailies