The game was crazy, but the result was sweet.
Though Jonathan Quick gave up a shorthanded goal on a highlight-reel gaffe, his strong play was the difference in the rest of this game, and they skated off with two valuable points in regulation.
The Kings began the game well. Trevor Lewis led a nice rush up the ice, and his shot led to the Kings establishing time in the zone. Stoll passed it back to Doughty, whose shot from the blue line bounced off two Ducks before getting past Fasth. Shots were 6-1 in the Kings' favor by the end of the period, though that doesn't quite tell the full story; Ryan Getzlaf had a prime scoring chance late in the first (with the uncommon duo of Regehr and Ellerby on the ice) that he shot wide.
Control of the game flipped in the second. The Kings' first shorthanded goal against of the entire season came in a bizarre sequence. Jake Muzzin's shot hit Getzlaf's shin pads and rocketed out. In a move that gave me flashbacks to the adventures of Robb "Blueline" Stauber, Quick tried to beat Getzlaf in a race to the puck, but missed. Getzlaf made no mistake, firing the puck past two flailing Kings and into the open net.
Once a goalie skates out, it's all or nothing; Quick took a gamble and lost. Fortunately, he didn't let it rattle him, because that play gave Anaheim renewed life.
Luckily, it didn't get worse from there. The Ducks appeared to take a 2-1 lead when Etem's backhand hit the crossbar and deflected back in off Bobby Ryan. However, replays showed that Ryan moved his leg to direct it in, and the goal was waved off.
This kind of play always reminds me of a goal Scott Parse once tried to score while lying on the ice, nudging the puck in with his knee. It also didn't hold up after review. Fans tend to dwell on the phrase "distinct kicking motion," but the war room overturns deliberate attempts to direct the puck in the net with anything but a stick. The right call was made here.
They were, however, lucky Etem's initial chance didn't go in. It was part of the pattern. The Ducks dominated long stretches of the second, while the Kings often struggled to clear the zone. Scoring chances were lopsided, despite the fact that the Kings spent a lot of time with a man advantage while the Ducks had none. Even a four minute power play after Jeff Carter took a high stick failed to turn the tide; the most notable chance during it was a shorthanded breakaway by Andrew Cogliano, who was fortunately stoned by Quick. Only the Kings' third line, led by Trevor Lewis (+11 in shot attempts), was able to generate much at even strength.
However, a lucky break late in the period gave the Kings an opening. While Beauchemin was in the box for accidentally flipping the puck over the glass, Brown set up a screen, and Mike Richards' shot from the top of the circle picked the corner of the net perfectly. With less than a minute left, the team that had been outplayed the entire period wound up with a one goal lead.
The Ducks made another strong push in the third, but the Kings hung on and even managed to generate more counter-attacks. LA got as many shots on net (9) as they had in the first two periods combined. The Ducks' sole power play near the end of the game was killed off effectively, and that was enough.
All in all, it was an exciting game, but not the complete team effort that I wanted to see. The Kings have had few tests against playoff teams since the deadline, and they haven't been as impressive lately. The Ducks are another big-bodied club who gave them a lot to handle, and their adjustments after the first almost paid off. The Kings were fortunate to get away with this one, I think.
On the other hand, the brutal schedule of March and April is probably still taking a toll. Darryl Sutter brought up their heavy travel yet again in the post-game press conference. The Kings haven't had a two consecutive days of rest since their trip to the White House, which added an extra flight. We'll see how they fare against another top team after this much-needed break.
Ducks down. San Jose ahoy!