By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – The seemingly inevitable Ducks-Kings rematch in the playoffs got another epic preview, with the Ducks once again pulling off an electrifying win at Honda Center.
Anaheim scored two in the third to take the lead, surrendered it with a few minutes left in regulation, then won it on a Ryan Kesler goal just 45 seconds into overtime to vanquish the Kings in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 17,174.
On the first shift of OT, Kesler circled behind the Kings net and was surprisingly left alone in the right wing circle, where he whipped a wrist shot past drawn-out Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. That ignited the home crowd and put the finishing touches on Anaheim’s league-high 12th third period comeback victory of the season. That included last February 27 here against LA, when the Ducks bounced back from a 2-0 deficit in the third to win 4-2.
"It definitely felt like a playoff atmosphere," Kesler said. "The fans were going and the guys were banging out there. It was a good game."
For Kesler, a longtime Kings nemesis dating back to his time in Vancouver, it was the fifth goal vs. LA this season and the 200th of his career.
"I’m not sure who our defenseman was that brought down Marian Gaborik, but that messed up their coverage," Kesler said. "I just rounded the corner and saw I had a lot of time to place the puck."
After going scoreless on 17 shots through the first 40 minutes, the Ducks tied the game on a power play just 45 seconds into the third when Ryan Getzlaf weaved in and fed Patrick Maroon, who swept the puck into the open net. It was Maroon’s first goal since Feb. 18 vs. Tampa Bay.
Following a number of big stops by John Gibson, the Ducks went ahead at the other end of the rink 7:35 into the third. On the rush, Andrew Cogliano fired a shot from the wing that bounced hard off Quick, and Jakob Silfverberg punched in the rebound. Quick argued for a goalie interference call, as Nate Thompson had gone hard into the crease, but was denied.
"Hampus [Lindholm] took some ice and kicked it out to the boards. Me and Cogs [Cogliano] made a drop pass and I just finished through to the net," Silfverberg said. "He made a great shot off the pad and it came straight out to me. I was just putting it into an empty net."
The Kings tied it with 4:14 left in regulation when Jake Muzzin fed from the corner in front to Justin Williams, who stickhandled the puck around and behind Gibson.
That was a smudge on an outstanding night for Gibson, who had 29 saves and won for the eighth time in his last 10 games. "They’re fighting to make the playoffs, so we knew we were going to get their best," Gibson said. "We wanted to match it with our best."
The Ducks were left shorthanded midway through the first after Dustin Brown leveled Corey Perry and teammates Simon Despres and Clayton Stoner jumped in for payback. Brown got a minor for roughing, while Despres got two for roughing and Stoner got two for cross-checking, leaving the Ducks defending a 4-on-3.
The Kings took almost immediate advantage, as just 16 seconds into the power play, Anze Kopitar dropped the puck on the right wing to Jeff Carter, who hammered home a one-timer.
Play remained physical the rest of the way – as the teams combined for an unofficial 60 hits – and like they have done so often this season, Anaheim erupted offensively in the third and, of course in overtime.
"It’s always a test playing them, whether it’s a preseason game or playoff game," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "They play with great structure and effort. It’s really difficult, but our team is competing pretty well right now. It makes for a good test."