Remember Game 2? Get on the board early, have the lead after 20 minutes, retreat into a defensive shell, and let the goaltending and defense take you home? The Los Angeles Kings executed that plan to take a 2-0 lead in the series, but in their first effective possession game of Round 2, the Anaheim Ducks used the same strategy to triumph.
The damage was done in the first period, and both goals were the result of the Ducks outworking (or simply outexecuting) LA around the net. With four minutes to go in the first, Ryan Getzlaf shot wide of the net and the puck caromed back off the boards gently to Corey Perry. Without looking behind him, Perry slid a pass backwards, and with Quick vainly leaning forward, Devante Smith-Pelly went top-shelf from close range. Smith-Pelly was only on the first line due to a Matt Beleskey injury, and his goal vindicated Bruce Boudreau's choice of a replacement.
The Kings had struck out on a few good chances to take the lead in the first period; notably, LA got nothing going on two power plays in the first ten minutes. Anaheim ended up using special teams to their advantage throughout, and they needed to, because they only got seven shots on goal at even strength. (SEVEN.) They got an additional five shots on their three power plays, and the one that went in was a weird one, as Getzlaf banked one in off of Jonathan Quick behind the net. Alec Martinez actually got himself behind Quick in the crease, but unlike Game 1, he couldn't keep the puck out. Quick wasn't necessarily to blame for the two goal lead, but he got yanked for Martin Jones after one period.
It was a pure message-sending move, and it worked; unfortunately, Boudreau had made another shrewd injury replacement, as John Gibson was in net for the injured Frederik Andersen. (Also, I think you may have seen Jonas Hiller's last start in a Ducks uniform.) Marian Gaborik was denied by the glove of Gibson in the first, but that was a mere teaser for the second period, in which the Kings got 100% of the shots. That's right, LA set a franchise playoff record (and Anaheim a franchise playoff low) as the Ducks could not muster a single shot on goal. The Kings didn't play a great game, but that stat alone shows that they may have deserved a better fate. However, the Ducks earned their fate by selling out to help Gibson. Ryan Getzlaf was in front of the net to deny a sure Drew Doughty goal, and his block came during the Kings' most dangerous minute of the game...
... no goals, though. The Ducks would block a total of 25 shots over the course of the game; despite mustering 71 shot attempts, only 28 shots (12 in the second period) got to Gibson.
As for Gibson? He stopped them all, weathering the storm after Sutter's goalie switch kicked off a ton of pressure. His best saves came on Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, each who had a great look in front but found themselves denied. Anze Kopitar's four-minute high-sticking penalty gave Gibson and the Ducks a much-needed reprieve in the middle of the third period, and after that was killed off, LA simply wasn't as dangerous as they had been before the penalty. Gibson finished off the shutout to even up the series.
Over these four games, the Kings have been largely unable to produce their best hockey. Thanks to timely goals in Game 1 and excellent goaltending in Game 2, LA was able to grab a couple of wins, but Anaheim fought back in kind. Honestly, given how poor the Kings have been, I'll take 2-2. If LA can produce the kind of pressure they brought in the latter periods of this game, they should still be able to win two out of three. You know, unless John Gibson actually IS some kind of goaltending deity.