By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – Ducks fans who were treated to an epic comeback against a longtime rival last Monday night received quite an encore tonight inside an electric Honda Center.
Trailing by two goals entering the third period, Anaheim exploded for four unanswered to bury the hated Kings 4-2 in front of a frenzied overflow crowd of 17,413.
Corey Perry had two goals – including the go-ahead strike and the door-slamming empty-netter with 23 seconds left – in that pivotal third period to push the Ducks to their fourth win in the last five games. It was also the fifth time this season the Ducks erased a two-goal deficit in the third period, including four nights ago vs. Detroit in which Anaheim ultimately prevailed 4-3 in a shootout.
They also did it against these Kings last November 12 at Honda Center to spur a 6-5 shootout victory. That was one of three wins in four games for the Ducks vs. LA this season, with the highly anticipated closer to the season series coming March 18 in Anaheim.
"We kept with it," said Ryan Kesler, whose goal a few minutes into the third lit a fire under the Ducks. "We didn’t let being down 2-0 going into the third period deter us from our main goal, which was winning the game. We played well all game and got rewarded in the end."
Anaheim got its first goal 4:37 into the third period when longtime Kings nemesis Kesler scooped up the puck to the right of the Kings net and lifted it into the far top corner. It was Kesler’s 17th of the season but first since February 6 at Washington. It was also his fourth against the Kings this year and 11th in 34 career games against LA.
"We turned the corner tonight," Kesler said. "That’s the kind of hockey we need to start playing. Not just against LA, but against every team. We knew how well they were playing up until this game, and how few goals they were giving up. We were upbeat and we definitely took it to them in the third period."
Anaheim tied it 90 seconds after Kesler's goal when Rickard Rakell flung the puck on net from a bad angle, and it kicked off goalie Martin Jones to Emerson Etem, who tipped it through to tie it. Jiri Sekac earned a secondary assist to earn his first point as a Duck in his second game since being acquired from Montreal in a trade on Tuesday.
The Ducks went ahead with 8:39 left on Perry's first of two, as the Ducks winger pounced on a bouncing puck in the crease and one-timed it under Jones.
LA sent Jones to the bench for an extra attacker with a little more than a minute left, and the Ducks missed two legitimate opportunities at filling the empty net. But they finally stuck the dagger in the Kings’ hearts when Jones went off again with 30 seconds remaining. Soon afterward, Perry flipped the puck on net from his own end, getting a fortuitous bounce as it rolled over the stripe and ignited a Ducks crowd that was already on its feet.
"I don’t think we got discouraged when they got the second goal," Perry said. "We stuck with it. We just needed that one little spark to get us going. Kes got us going early. Those are big moments in a game that can turn the tide for us."
LA opened the scoring tonight with just under five minutes to go in the first when Trevor Lewis fought through a Francois Beauchemin hip check, went hard to the net and slipped the puck under goalie John Gibson (20 saves)
The Kings made it 2-0 halfway through the second when Brayden McNabb threw the puck on net from the right point and it appeared to carom off the leg of Hampus Lindholm (who was battling in the crease with Dustin Brown) before it darted past Gibson. It was McNabb’s first goal as a King and first with any team since December 26, 2011.
But the Ducks defense held the Kings off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, only allowing 22 shots the entire way as the attackers did the work at the other end.
"For 60 minutes, we played the right way," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "We didn’t get anything out of it the first 40, but it’s one of those things where you have to keep at it. Eventually we got one, and the crowd got into it."
After ending an up-and-down February on a high note, the Ducks will look to keep it going Sunday night in Dallas.
"If we play the right way and we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re capable of playing against anybody," Boudreau said. "It’s just a reminder that when we do that, we’re pretty good. We’ve gotten away from it for the past couple of weeks, so this, hopefully, brings us back as a group."