Ducks @ Kings Recap: LA Closes Regular Season With Shootout Loss
The Kings get one point against Anaheim. Progress!
82 games in the books for the Los Angeles Kings. Some of the regular season's most frustrating losses came against Anaheim Ducks, but this wasn't one of them. Still a loss, but a somewhat rewarding game for those who showed up at the Staples Center.
Teemu Selanne was honored in a short ceremony before the game, but with the Ducks' season ending on back-to-back nights, Selanne was a scratch for the game. Kings fans gave Selanne a standing ovation as the Kings gave him his retirement gift... a paddleboard. Oh, Los Angeles. It was the start of a cordial affair at Staples; the crowd in general was much closer to that of the Dodger Stadium game (where Kings and Ducks fans enjoyed the atmosphere and weren't filled with hate for each other) than of the teams' last matchup (when Gaborik's goal was disallowed and things got nasty). It helped that the Kings were giving away prizes left and right for the fans.
LA got off to a quick start thanks to Dustin Brown, who had a strong March but hadn't yet earned a point in April. Willie Mitchell knocked the puck away from Francois Beauchemin at the red line, springing Brown free the other way. Two Anaheim defenders tried in vain to close Brown down, but he had plenty of time to beat Frederik Andersen five-hole. The Ducks didn't take long to get that goal back, and they did it in a rather unique way...
... as Nick Bonino scored one of the goals of the season. How on earth did he elevate that puck?
Dustin Brown nearly put the Kings back in front midway through the period, when he wound up and fired a slapshot off the crossbar. Aside from that, though, the Ducks essentially shut down the Kings' offense over the final 15 minutes. They probably deserved to go ahead and did so two minutes into the second period. Hampus Lindholm placed his shot to the far side with traffic (mostly Alec Martinez) blocking Jonathan Quick. Quick had the net covered from his angle and the shot was going wide, but Devante Smith-Pelly redirected the puck in behind Quick.
The Kings controlled the remainder of the period but couldn't solve Andersen, though they did knock two different Ducks into the benches. So that was nice. Anze Kopitar made sure that the third-period deficit didn't last long, though; after Justin Williams put the puck into the corner, Kopitar picked it up and took advantage of a slow reaction by Andersen to put the puck in on a wraparound. It was Kopitar's 28th of the season, putting him ahead of Jeff Carter for the team lead. LA had all the momentum just 48 seconds in, and they kept pressing for a go-ahead goal. The Kings got a golden opportunity to take the lead when two Anaheim penalties gave them 3:15 of power play time, but Williams blasted one off the crossbar and the Ducks escaped.
It still looked like the Kings were the likeliest team to score over the final ten minutes, but the Muzzin-Greene pair was victimized on the Ducks' best chance of the third period. Jake Muzzin couldn't keep the puck in at the blue line and when he tried to move it back up from his own end, he gave it away to Matt Beleskey. That left Matt Greene defending, and he took away the pass from Beleskey (even though Muzzin was defending the other side). Beleskey's wrister was perfectly placed in the top corner, and the Ducks had taken the lead with under five minutes to go. It was an up-and-down game for Muzzin; he was on the ice for two LA goals and finished +8 in shot attempts, but the pairing had 90% offensive zone starts and was still liable for Beleskey's goal. This team needs Drew Doughty back, as none of the pairings have really excelled in his absence.
It had all the makings of yet another frustrating loss to Anaheim, but Anze Kopitar made sure the Kings wouldn't go down without a fight. Watch this again and again:
That's Ryan Getzlaf who got spun around by Kopitar there. Getzlaf's pretty good, but Kopitar put the team on his back down the stretch, and that dazzling goal set up overtime. The overtime session itself was fantastic, as Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, Getzlaf, Mathieu Perreault, and Corey Perry were among those who had really good chances to end it. The Perry save in particular was vintage Quick, as Perry attempted to outwait Quick off a rebound but was stopped by the oustretched pad and glove. The ensuing shootout went scoreless until Devante Smith-Pelly, the Ducks' fourth shooter, beat Quick to earn Anaheim the extra point.
The Ducks only needed one point to clinch the West's top seed, while the Kings only needed one point to put them at 100 on the season. Both got what they wanted, though LA would have loved to get that bonus point and clinch the Jennings Trophy in the process. As it is, the 4-3 loss ties them with Boston at 174 goals allowed, so they'll need Boston to allow a goal today if they want to earn that trophy for themselves.
And now, a few days off before San Jose...