By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – In a game that nearly matched the gripping intensity of last spring’s epic playoff series between two bitter rivals, this one ended in decidedly better fashion for Ducks fans.
Anaheim, which trailed the Kings 5-3 with under six minutes remaining, came back with two goals in the final 5:40, then won it in a shootout for a dramatic 6-5 victory in front of a boisterous packed house at Honda Center.
Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler each connected in the shootout, with Kesler’s tally standing up as the game-winner when goalie Jason LaBarbera (a mid-game insertion) made two big stops in the second and third rounds. The final save came on Kings captain Anze Kopitar, with former King LaBarbera thrusting both hands into the air as teammates poured off the bench.
"On the penalty shot, I knew he was going to make that move," LaBarbera said of his former teammate. "I didn’t think he was going to do it in the shootout, so I felt like I should go old school and poke check him. I probably threw him off because I think he shot it a little quicker than he wanted to."
Getzlaf nearly ended it with just seconds left in regulation, firing a shot from the slot just off the outside of the post that had goalie Jonathan Quick leaning the wrong way.
Kesler earlier got the Ducks within a goal with 5:40 left, picking up a blocked shot and sweeping around the back of the net before tucking it inside the post with the backhand, his second of the night.
"It was entertaining, I’ll give you that," deadpanned Getzlaf. "I was proud. Our guys played really well tonight. We had ups and downs throughout the game, but I felt we played well all night long. They had some bounces."
The Ducks endured three different two-goal deficits and never led in the game until the shootout, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process (all overtime/shootout defeats). In the process, Anaheim more than broke out of a scoring slump in which they hadn’t scored more than three goals in their last seven games, erupting for five tonight on a whopping 49 shots.
"I wish we could’ve stopped them from scoring, but maybe that’s what we needed to jumpstart our offense and get a big win tonight," Getzlaf said.
Anaheim was once again without the services of top goal-scorer Corey Perry (fourth straight game) and top defenseman Francois Beauchemin (second straight), and it was announced during the first intermission that both have contracted the mumps.
"It seemed like we’d get one, they’d get one, but the positive is that it’s a sign of a good character win by a good character team," Kesler said. "We could’ve easily given up when the score was 3-1 or 4-2, but the guys stayed positive on the bench. We kept fighting. It’s a pretty good game against a pretty good defensive team."
The Ducks had the lion’s share of scoring chances in the first, and still ended up on the wrong side of a 2-0 score. The Kings got on the board first near the halfway point of the period courtesy of Kopitar. After Sami Vatanen hooked him from behind on a breakaway, Kopitar made the ensuing penalty shot look easy, backhanding the puck under Frederik Andersen’s leg pad and inside the left post.
LA made it 2-0 with 48.5 left in the first when a puck came off the wall and Drew Doughty slapped it on net, where it sailed through a crowd and got over Andersen’s shoulder.
Anaheim cut the lead in half 7:07 into the second when Cam Fowler’s shot from the top of the right wing circle deflected off a Kings stick and found the net.
The Kings killed the Ducks’ momentum two minutes later when Trevor Lewis’ seemingly benign shot from the left wing somehow snuck under Andersen, who was pulled immediately for backup LaBarbera.
"Freddie didn’t have his best game, but Barbs came in," Getzlaf said. "That’s what our team is about."
The Ducks moved within a goal again another two minutes later when Silfverberg took in a Kesler dish on the rush and slung the puck top shelf from the right wing (Silfverberg’s first of the year on his 36th shot).
The Ducks finished that period with a 31-12 shot advantage, and tied it on their 32nd shot of the game, 2:35 into the third. Silfverberg pounced on a loose puck in the slot and deftly fed it back to Kesler, who found the top corner with a wrister.
Marian Gaborik, who broke the Ducks’ hearts twice in Game 1 of last May's seven-game playoff series, did it again 7:32 into the third, firing a wrist shot from left faceoff dot that got through LaBarbera.
Williams made it 5-3 on his second of the night with 8:59 left, punching in a rebound off an Alec Martinez shot that seemingly put the Kings comfortably in front. But that was before Kesler and Getzlaf came to the rescue in the late going.
"We never quit," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "It was one of those games where, with two minutes to go, I was thinking that if we don’t get two points out of this it’s a shame. I thought we played so hard. They kept coming back against a tough team."
And in the shootout, both Silfverberg and Kesler found the net with wristers from between the circles, while LaBarbera denied Jeff Carter and Kopitar after giving up a goal to Gaborik.
"It’s never easy, especially with an atmosphere like that," LaBarbera said. "Your mindset changes in a hurry. That might’ve been the loudest regular season crowd I’ve heard. That was pretty impressive."