RECAP: The Fight for First

It could be argued that prior to the past few seasons, this was a rivalry by geography only. That is no longer the case.

i'm sure when the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks came into the league, the idea of crosstown rivals contending for the top spot in their division was expected to be commonplace. Instead, this has merely been a matchup long in the making.

The Kings and Ducks met on Saturday afternoon with just 18 games to play after this one. They met on Saturday afternoon in a tie for first in the division, with the only edge in the standings belonging to the Kings for their advantage in ROW. They met on Saturday afternoon full of sound and fury.

A raucous crowd greeted the teams right from the opening faceoff, and the two teams quickly matched the intensity of the crowd.

Just under seven minutes into the game, Corey Perry (predictably) incited a true line brawl. Out of that line brawl, we saw 64 penalty minutes, two full blown scraps, two game misconducts, two 10-minute misconducts, and a Kings power play. Oddly, it was newcomers to the rivalry that led the fisticuffs. Kris Versteeg fought Ducks youngster Rickard Rakell. Recently acquired Luke Schenn mixed it up with brand new Duck Jamie McGinn. Also Andy Andreoff and Kevin Bieksa fought for some reason. The latter were ejected, and good riddance.

The Kings weren't able to take advantage of that man advantage or another power play later in the period. The first period, perhaps thanks to those power plays, was a fairly even frame. Unfortunately, the Ducks unevened things early in the second.

After Vinny Lecavalier lost the puck just outside the Kings' zone, Ryan Kesler took over. Kesler pressed forward against a backed off Kings defense and, from dead in the center of the slot, ripped a shot past Jonathan Quick to put the Ducks up 1-0 just over three minutes into the 2nd period.

Lecavalier's turnover was the latest in a string of rough plays spanning the last several games. He has not been very good following his torrid start to his time as a King. Sometimes, though, hockey rewards the persistent.

Late during a Kings power play, Jonathan Quick fired a long outlet pass to Lecavalier in an attempt to catch the Ducks in a line change. It worked! Lecavalier utilized his greatest remaining asset - his hands - and dished a slick pass to Milan Lucic, who had slipped behind scrambling Ducks defenders. Lucic tried to shoot between Frederik Andersen's legs, and then followed the play all the way to the end. After the puck burrowed through Andersen's pads, Lucic was there to tap in the equalizer.

If the game-tying goal was reward for the Kings' excellent 2nd period work, then the Ducks' late power play goal to tilt the score back in their favor was an especially sharp dagger. The ever-annoying David Perron found himself in the slot as Cam Fowler let go a very redirectable shot, and Perron was able to tip it past Quick.

It's difficult to seek out moral victories in the middle of a heated battle in the Pacific theater, but after two periods it was hard to see any real flaws in the way the Kings had played. They had thoroughly controlled the pace of play in the 2nd period, and carried a 50-30 edge in shot attempts (all situations) to the 3rd period. The Kings were down, but certainly not out.

Unfortunately, if the Kings were going to stage a comeback, it was going to be from two goals down instead of one. Very early in the 3rd, the Ducks scored on the power play again. In might nightmares, I am going to see them score power play goals. I hate it! This time it was Jakob Silfverberg, though Silfverberg was merely the beneficiary of good positioning. As he provided a screen in front of Quick, Rickard Rakell's shot him him in the upper arm and ricocheted perfectly into the corner of the goal to make it a 3-1 game.

The Kings quickly struck back. On their fifth power play of the night, the Kings made it a one-goal game. Drew Doughty skated back against the flow of traffic at the far point. With his head up scanning the play, Doughty let a smartly placed wristshot fly back across his body. Anze Kopitar would factor into the play with a secondary assist, but his most important contribution to the goal was the screen he provided. The puck sailed past Kopi without deflection, but Andersen wasn't able to pick up the puck in traffic. 3-2 game.

With 14 minutes left, the Kings got their sixth power play of the game. Despite threatening, they were unable to knot the game.

The game wound down all too quickly. The Ducks, perhaps aided by all of knowledge Bruce Boudreau has gained from losing big games in the past, played a smart, conservative game. Anaheim even managed to pick up the best scoring chance of the waning moments of the game after failing to score on a 2-on-1 following a glaring mistake by Rob Scuderi.

It was an exciting game with a frustrating finish. The Kings weren't able to get much of anything going in the game's final 10 minutes. Even with the goalie pulled, the Kings barely managed to get the puck in the Ducks zone.

Fortunately, the truth of the game lies somewhere between a Kings loss and a Ducks win. The Ducks benefited from a good bounce on their third goal. The Kings carried a lot of the play. It was a loss, but it was an even game. If you're looking at how these teams stack up in the playoffs, the answer is: about equally. These are two of the league's very best, and tonight they stood toe to toe and exchanged punches for the full 60 minutes. The Ducks got the decision, but I'm sure the Kings aren't intimidated by a Spring rematch.