By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – The Ducks have done a lot of winning at Honda Center this season, but there is something special about beating the Kings.
In front of a passionate standing-room-only crowd of 17,503, the Ducks roared back with two second period goals and hung on to the finish for a tense 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals.
Patrick Maroon scored the go-ahead goal on a wraparound late in the second period, and it stood up for Anaheim, which continued its stranglehold on the NHL's top spot and jumped 17 points ahead of LA in the standings.
It was the 114th meeting between the two teams, and the highly anticipated outdoor game comes Saturday evening in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series LA game at Dodger Stadium. If it’s anything like this one tonight, a national television audience is in for a serious treat.
"I know every time we play this team, it’s a man’s game," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "You better be prepared to hit, and be hit, because they’re so good."
The tension in the building was palpable throughout, as the Ducks leaned on 30 saves from Frederik Andersen to continue their dominance at home. A loss two nights ago to Winnipeg was the Ducks' only in regulation at Honda Center this year, as they improved to a NHL-best 21-1-2 at home. That ties the 2008-09 Sharks for the second-best start at home in NHL history, trailing only the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens, who started 21-0-3.
The Kings dropped their fourth straight game and have won just once in their last 10 road contests.
"One game in January doesn’t mean we’re a better team than them," said Ben Lovejoy, a major part of a stingy Ducks defense. "They played a great game tonight. We were one goal better than them, barely. We’re two very evenly matched teams, and we need to bring it on Saturday in order to be successful."
The Kings got on the board first in a lackluster first period for the Ducks, as Trevor Lewis sent the puck from the left wing wall through a couple of Ducks to Anze Kopitar, who one-timed it from in deep.
The Ducks, as they have done so often this season, came charging back in the second period. "Even if we got outplayed in the first period, we can come back," Boudreau said. "Once we got our legs underneath us, I thought we played pretty good the last two periods."
Anaheim appeared to tie it midway through the period on a point shot by Lovejoy, but officials dubiously determined that Tim Jackman interfered with Jonathan Quick on the play.
That didn’t appear to hinder Anaheim, which got goals from Dustin Penner and Maroon before the period was over. Penner’s came at 13:51 on the power play, as the puck pinballed around the crease and Penner took a couple of swipes at it before sending it over a swimming Quick.
Quick was scrambling again with just over two minutes left in the frame, making a nice save before Maroon chased down the puck behind the net and snuck the puck through on a wraparound.
"Jackman forechecked really hard and I came in second," Maroon said. "Then, [Kings defenseman] Willie Mitchell turned it over, and Fisty [Mark Fistric] threw it on net. My first instinct was to wrap the puck, and fortunately it went in."
That turned out to be the game-winner, as the Ducks clamped down over the game’s final 22 minutes to secure the gratifying victory in a physical game.
"We had 48 hits tonight, which is a team record," Boudreau said. "You have to play that way against these guys. If we make the playoffs, that’s what we’re going to have do. We’re going to have to grind it out."
The Ducks improved to 39-10-5 (81 points) overall. This marks Anaheim’s best ever start to a season through 53 games, besting the previous mark of 32-13-8 for 72 points in 2006-07. This marks the deepest into a season (53 games) that the Ducks have ever led the league in points. (Previously 48 games, 2006-07)
The Ducks are 10-2-0 in their last 12 games and 20-3-0 in their last 23 games. This is Anaheim’s 11th win in their last 12 games at Honda Center (11-1-0).
With 177 goals scored this season, the Ducks have scored the most goals through 53 games in club history. In addition Anaheim’s 126 goals allowed are the fewest in club history. At home, Anaheim’s 93 goals are the most ever scored at Honda Center through 24 games. Also, the club’s 43 goals allowed at home match the fewest in club history.
Patrick Maroon scored his first career NHL game winning goal (1-0=1). He now has 1-4=5 points in the last eight games he has played.
Frederik Anderson won his 13th game of the season, moving into the lead among NHL rookie goaltenders. He also ranks second in GAA (1.87) and SV% (.933).
Nick Bonino’s earned his team-leading 19th power play point, extended his point-streak to three games (1-3=4).
With his assist tonight, Mark Fistric now has 0-3=3 points in his last four games.