Three days had passed since the Ducks and Kings played last Thursday. The Ducks took the time off to rest. The Kings extended their winning streak to nine games in a row by coming back from a 3-0 deficit to the Red Wings on Saturday.
"The last couple of times we played the hockey club across the hall here, we were on the second half of a back-to-back," said coach Randy Carlyle. "We didn't have necessary energy and they did. Tonight we had a lot of energy and we felt good about the ability to skate with them. They are a good hockey team. They ahve earned everything they have achieved. But we can be more competitive than we were in the last two games we played against them, that is for sure."
For a team that had won nine games in a row at home (now 10) and had been 3-12-2 (now 4-12-2) against Pacific Division teams, a win for the Ducks could not have been more critical. A 4-2 victory against their rival tasted very, very sweet, and not because the Ducks ended the Kings winning streak. It was because they extended their own and made it even tougher for opposing teams to get a win at the Honda Center.
"Home ice advantage is huge," said Corey Perry. "When you're at home, you need those two points. You need to go out and make the place a war zone out there. It should be a hard place for the other team to come in and play."
The Ducks came out strong, but then Oscar Moller put the Kings on the board at 12:31. Moller was spinning around when he put in a rebound behind Jonas Hiller. It's always fun when Kings fans bring their thunder sticks and beat them with a passion, although by the end of the game there wasn't much to beat about. No surprise when there is a minor clash between diehard opposing factions in the stands later in the game.
Later in the period, the Kings took not one, but two brainless penalties. First Matt Greene sent the puck over the glass for delay of game. :30 seconds later Los Angeles forgot they were on the power play and had too many men on the ice. That gave the Ducks a 5 on 3 for 1:30 and a golden opportunity to tie up the game.
Jonathan Quick did his darnedest to keep the puck out, but despite moves that looked like a combination Dominik Hasek impression and semaphore demonstration, Teemu Selanne put in a rebound at 18:30. That made goal #597 for the Finnish Flash, just three more to 600. You cannot underestimate the value that Selanne brings to the power play. Priceless.
The Ducks poured it on early in the second period to get the lead for the first time. Ryan Getzlaf scored at 3:27 thanks to great work from Perry, who stole the puck from Drew Drewiske, just back from the IR with an upper body injury and looking a bit rusty.
Perry looked to make it 3-1 a few minutes later on the power play, but the referee deemed that he was in the crease and it was no goal. Never mind that Jack Johnson had pushed Perry into Quick after the shot had already gone off through Quick's legs. No matter. The Ducks did get that power play goal after all just :30 seconds later, this time from Saku Koivu at 6:24.
Somewhere in the middle of the period, Getzlaf sprained his left ankle (x-rays were negative and he will be reevaluated tomorrow). The injury was serious enough for him to be wearing a boot and use crutches and obviously he did not return to the game, but it did not stop the determined Duckies.
Anze Kopitar made it 3-2 at 18:06, just as a power play expired, but the Ducks responded right back. Perry finally got the goal he should have had earlier at 18:30 giving the Ducks the two goal lead once more to go into the third period. Perry's shot went through a five-hole so big it looked like a six-hole. Couldn't miss on that one.
"We fell a little short," said Kopitar. "It's one of those things where we scored and they came right back. It's unfortunate. It was a huge goal for them going up just before the break with a two-goal lead."
Knowing that the Kings have every ability to come back from a deficit, the Ducks and Hiller did an outstanding job preventing the Kings from narrowing the lead any more. Hiller had to stop 18 shots on goal just in the third period, many of them extremely juicy rebounds, and he made 35 saves overall for the win.
"We knew we had to play better than the last game," said Hiller. "It was really important to win tonight. We have three more important games coming up. We know we have to win as many games as possible until the end of the year for us to have a chance to make the playoffs."
The Ducks now face the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this season on Wednesday and will see them twice this week. The Oilers are struggling and lost 6-1 to Phoenix this evening. The Ducks cannot let down one iota. They are still three points out of a playoff spot, and whether they are one point away or one hundred, a miss is as good as a mile.
If they can keep up this effort for the rest of the season, they should be in good shape.