The Los Angeles Kings faced their orange rivals down south, the Anaheim Ducks, with only two points separating them in the playoff race. Along with the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, the four teams are battling for three final Western Conference playoff spots with only a few more games to go. There is not enough room for everyone—one very good team will not make the April dance.
For the Kings, they can’t wait until April—the playoffs start now. Have you fastened your seat belts?
The Kings hit the ice running, with lots of hitting and forechecking. Less than a minute in, Jeff Carter pounced on a loose puck up close, but John Gibson made the save.
But six minutes in, two Ducks collided at the blue line, leaving Drew Doughty with a wide open lane. Driving in, he lifted the puck over John Gibson to strike first blood.
Soon after, pressure by the Ducks caused Jonathan Quick to sprawl out of position, but Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler could not jam in the rebound. Then Jakob Silfverberg backhanded the puck into the crease but Quick covered in time. The Ducks continued to forecheck and generate quality chances, but Quick got low to make saves each time.
After the puck was kicked in front yet again, Derek Grant was stoned by Quick. Then quickly the Kings deflected a pass off the boards to a streaking Kyle Clifford for a rare breakaway for him! But Gibson made the save. The Kings got the rebound in front, but Gibson made another save while he was down, despite the net being hilariously dislodged. What passion, what determination!
More forechecking by Anaheim, but Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter’s counterattack was denied by Gibson as the net was dislodged again.
Oh my! Andrew Cogliano passed the puck to Ryan Kesler who was all alone in front of the net. But the puck bounced over his stick. Then the speedy Tobias Rieder pushed the puck ahead to make it a two-on-one with Carter, but the angle was awkward and Carter could not convert. It was followed by a Ducks player dancing around Doughty down low, but Quick did the splits to make the right leg save!
Corey Perry tipped a long pass into the air as he crossed the blue line, which could have led to a breakaway, but even Ducks analyst Brian Hayward agreed the call was offside.
The Kings finally score first in a game. The Ducks dominated possession and led in shots 16-10 and scoring chances 8-4. Corey Perry was engaged and was the catalyst for Anaheim. But the Kings’ counterattack provided the upper hand. As in the playoffs, the referees were reluctant to call penalties.
Breathtaking action, and we’re just getting started!
The Ducks’ forechecking continued. The Kings cleared the puck briefly but lost it, leading to a two-on-one with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. But Getzlaf’s pass did not meet the tape of Perry who had a wide open net.
Ondrej Kase received a pass and toe-dragged for a backhander, but the rebound was steered away by Quick, who started to show fatigue. It was followed by some Kings forechecking, and a Clifford wraparound, but Gibson was equal to task.
Now the Ducks had trouble clearing their zone. Trevor Lewis streaked down the right wing to create a rebound. A sweet chance went right to Paul LaDue at the hash marks. He shot high, but Getzlaf was there to block it with his left skate.
Then the Ducks had trouble keeping it in the offensive zone, and the Kings got what they wanted—a two-on-one with Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis. Kempe made a beautiful toe drag move to get around Cam Fowler. But once again, Gibson said no. It was a highlight-reel move, denied.
Josh Manson laid the hit of the night on Clifford in front of the Los Angeles bench. The teams exchanged chances. Manson also hit Torrey Mitchell who had his head down. Dion Phaneuf tried to stir up some tempers with Nick Ritchie, but the latter would not take the bait.
Then the Ducks had a series of chances. Silfverberg could not handle the rebound quickly enough and had to juggle it, giving Quick time to slide across and forward.
Finally, Ritchie and the Anaheim forecheck paid off. Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase were excellent. The puck went high to the blue line and was shot down low. Trevor Lewis could not handle Ritchie who slammed in the rebound to tie the game.
Getzlaf dominated the next few minutes. First he lulled the Kings to sleep, and all of a sudden the puck went to a speeding Hampus Lindholm down the middle. Later, Getzlaf spun and passed the puck to Perry who shot just wide. It was followed by an unforced error by Alec Martinez, who golfed the puck into the boards for the first penalty of the game. In contrast to the focused, high-intensity action of the other players, Martinez has been passive and invisible tonight.
The Kings asserted themselves more on offense in the first half of the period. But the Ducks tilted the ice their way to tie the game up.
The Anaheim power play went cold. It would be the only power play of the match. But after the penalty was killed, the Ducks intercepted a cross-ice pass to continue their possession game. Derek Forbort was very good at handling Silfverberg, but the Ducks managed a point shot through traffic that was grabbed by Quick. Meanwhile, the Kings could not get their offense started, managing only to dump the puck for a line change.
The forecheck continued for Anaheim, with seemingly no end. It felt like the opening scene of “Cliffhanger”—how much longer can the Kings hang on? Fans chanted “Beat LA” with 9:30 remaining. A few icing calls and goalie stoppages gave the Kings time to breathe. Doughty joined the offense with two booming shots. But the Kings could not establish the offensive cycle.
With less than five minutes remaining, Gibson awkwardly handled a back pass that went his way, almost leading to disaster. The Kings had some momentum, but a strange icing call killed that. A chance down low for Kase was blocked with the stick of Phaneuf.
A botched play around the boards, and Mitchell was wide open with puck at the circle but was denied. The Ducks seemed content to take the game to overtime. In the final minute, Kempe curled down the left wing but Gibson walled off the Swede’s shot. It was followed by Tanner Pearson who had a bid down low, but Gibson helped earn the Ducks one point of two.
The Kings won the faceoff and created several waves of pressure, forcing the Ducks to hand the puck to Gibson for another stoppage. Then Getzlaf snatched the puck from Carter, but the Ducks made a line change and waltzed offside.
From there the teams frantically traded chances. It was a frenzy. Overtime at its finest. Somehow the puck stayed out. But in the end, Rickard Rackell scored his 32nd goal through the legs of Alec Martinez to win it in extra innings. Martinez struggled tonight. He lacked mobility, and almost lost the puck halfway through the overtime.
The Kings at least get one point (94 points), keeping them ahead of the Ducks (93 points), who have one game in hand. With 92 points are the Avalanche. Both Los Angeles and Anaheim face Colorado one more time.