The Los Angeles Kings, amazingly, played their fellow Pacific Division Anaheim Ducks for the first time after having already played past the halfway point on the year. The Kings and Ducks find themselves in opposite positions compared to last year, with the Kings nursing a comfortable division lead and the Ducks on the outside looking in. The Ducks have been surging as of late, and the divisional battle proved exciting until the very end.
The Kings cruised into the third period against the Senators the previous day with a 3-1 lead and left the game with a 5-3 loss. The obvious imperative coming into the Ducks game was to eliminate defensive lapses. To spur this cause, Darryl Sutter gave us a defensive lineup we've not seen in a while: Muzzin with Doughty, McNabb with McBain, and Martinez with insert-grizzled-right-hand-defenseman-here. These were only initial lineups, however, and it felt like we saw just about every combination before the closing horn.
The game got off to quite the sluggish start as the Kings and Ducks only combined for 12 shots in the first period. Newly-minted King Vincent Lecavalier kicked off the scoring less than a minute into the second period to finally jump start things. Jeff Carter found Vinny with way too much space down low, and all it took was a quick spin for the puck to be mashed between the pads of John Gibson.
In true Kings fashion, it took Anaheim only 33 seconds to score the equalizer. Thankfully, the Kings would go on to score the next two. The Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli combination continues to pay dividends, and Tyler Toffoli didn't even need to get it on net to score his second. A banked shot off young defenseman Sami Vatanen gave the Kings the lead again. Finally, Anze Kopitar showed us why he deserves his paycheck when he deflected a Brayden McNabb shot through the tiniest of margins in John Gibson's pads.
For the second game in a row, the Kings found themselves in a position to defend a 3-1 third period lead. Five minutes in, it was only a one goal lead thanks to a David Perron shot that Jonathan Quick never even saw. The Kings shelled up and wintered the storm the rest of the period, including an apparent equalizing goal off the skate of Andrew Cogliano. Our old friend "distinct kicking motion" neutralized the tying goal, which left the Kings weathering an onslaught until near the final horn.
I say the onslaught was until near the final horn because John Gibson took a delay of game penalty with 20 seconds left. Gibson was attempting to leave the ice when he rushed back to make a save on the empty net. The save occurred between the faceoff dots, and thanks to the Kings' pressure, Gibson felt he had to cover it. Even so, the Kings had to deal with 16 third period shots from the Ducks before earning their first regulation victory in Anaheim since that one game in the 2014 playoffs.