ANAHEIM – As vital as their playoff-clinching victory over the Kings last night was for the Ducks, tonight’s 3-1 win over their rivals 24 hours later at Staples Center may have been nearly as significant.
By virtue of the Anaheim’s victory, and regulation losses by the Predators and Coyotes, the Ducks leapfrogged from seventh to fourth in the Western Conference standings. That guarantees they’ll open the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the friendly confines of Honda Center.
“We knew what was at stake tonight,” said Corey Perry, who had a nice assist on Anaheim's second goal. “and we got some help from some other teams to claim that fourth spot. We worked hard and we finally got it done.”
"That was such an important win for us," said Teemu Selanne, who didn't have a point but took part in a rare fight late in the game. "We wanted to have the home ice advantage and we got it. We did what we had to do. We've been fighting for three months just to try and get into the playoffs. Last night we clinched that and all of a sudden we had an opportunity for home ice. This is huge."
Dan Ellis, starting in net for the second straight night, delivered possibly his best game in a Ducks uniform with a season-high 43 saves and only a second period goal by Ryan Smyth. Brandon McMillan, Saku Koivu and Francois Beauchemin provided the scoring for Anaheim, which finished the regular season winning 6 of their last 8.
"You always want to go into the playoffs on a little bit of a roll and we've been able put some games together against some good teams," Ellis said. "We've managed to build some confidence and feel good about oursevles and hopefully that carries on through."
Anaheim scored the game’s first three goals, the opening salvo coming 13:27 into the game from McMillan. Right off the draw in the Kings end, McMillan fired a shot off goalie Jonathan Quick that flipped into the air, where McMillan batted it in around chest level.
Two minutes later on the power play, Perry got the puck down low from Ryan Getzlaf and made a gorgeous blind backhand pass over the top of the crease, where Koivu banged it into the open net.
With the Ducks again on the power play about 8 ½ minutes into the second, Selanne gave the puck away to Dustin Brown, who headed the other way on a breakaway. Brown deked to his backhand, but was denied on a beautiful save by Ellis, perhaps his best stop on a night full of them.
A few seconds later, with the Ducks still on the man advantage, Beauchemin rocketed a slap shot from the left point that got under Quick’s glove and leg pad.
The Kings got one back on a rare power play goal with 1:36 left in the second, their first in seven games and first in six opportunities tonight. Drew Doughty broke his stick on a shot from the point, but it had enough steam on it for Smyth to deflect it off his thigh, then off the crossbar, where it hit Ellis in the back and got over the line.
Neither team found the net in the third period, but there was plenty of action during one extended incident with 3:22 left in the game and the Ducks up two goals. As Selanne held the puck along the wall in the offensive zone, he was driven into the glass by Jack Johnson and his helmet was later ripped off his head by Brad Richardson, sparking some pushing and shoving in the corner. As things appeared ready to let up, Sheldon Brookbank and Kyle Clifford dropped the gloves and rained blows on each other, with Brookbank opening up a cut on Clifford’s face.
As that bout continued, Selanne himself got into a rare fight (believed to be the first since his rookie year) with Richardson, as they each landed a couple of headshots before officials pulled them apart.
"When you feel that somebody is trying to hurt you, you have to take action out there," said Selanne. "I did what I had to do."
The Ducks won’t know their first round opponent until the Chicago-Detroit game tomorrow afternoon, but they do know they will spend the first two games of that opening series in their home rink.
“We worked hard for this position, and the last couple months we’ve worked extra hard, just to get to where we are today," Perry said. "To get the home ice advantage for the first round is an added bonus.
Added Selanne, "Two days ago, we didn't even know if we were going to make the playoffs. Two days later, we're in fourth place. That's just amazing. That just shows how tight it is. You have to believe."
20:00 - END OF GAME - That's it from Staples Center. Ducks finish regular season with a 3-1 victory and lock up fourth.
19:53 - Ducks ice it with 6.1 left. This bad boy is OVER.
19:25 - Ellis again makes a save and smothers a loose puck. Killing it tonight.
19:00 - Quick to the bench.
16:45 - Ducks get a power play after all that.
16:38 - ANA Penalties - Sheldon Brookbank, 2 min. roughing and 5 min. fighting and Teemu Selanne, 5 min. fighting. LAK Penalties - Wayne Simmonds, 2 min. roughing and Brad Richardson, 2 min. cross checking and 5 min. fighting and Kyle Clifford, 5 min. fighting. As the puck is held along the wall, Richardson rips Selanne's helmet off him, sparking a little rumble in the corner. As it's about to let up, Brookbank and Clifford start raining blows on each other, with Brookbank getting some good shots in after trailing early and cutting Clifford. As that's happening, Selanne start throwing down with Richardson (a rare sight), as they both land rights on each other's heads. Wild scene at Staples Center as it's a garage sale of hockey equipment on the ice. This one takes awhile to sort out.
It's over in San Jose: Sharks 3, Coyotes 1.
15:53 - Ellis dives on yet another loose puck and now has a skate issue, heading over to the bench to get help from ... Jonas Hiller.
15:30 - Ellis' jersey looks like he spilled orange Gatorade all over himself. One of his few missteps tonight.
15:20 - Beauchemin and Greene mix it up after Ellis freezes it with Beauchemin taking a swing. Ellis with 40 saves tonight.
Sharks just went up 3-1. Ducks hang on, they're fourth.
12:50 - Ellis kicks a shot away just as the PP is running out. Absolutely huge. Made about four saves in a minute.
Watching two games at once. Awkward.
11:51 - ANA Penalty - Francois Beauchemin, 2 min. tripping. Beauchemin takes down Brown away from the puck. Bad timing, that one.
10:21 - Kings ice it with 9:39 left. Time is moving very slow in this game and in San Jose.
9:04 - Ellis nicely pounces on a bouncing puck that deflected off Selanne.
7:00 - Winchester, playing with Getzlaf and Perry, nearly bats in a loose puck as he's falling to the ice. Slides just wide of the far post.
3:15 - Ducks being outshot 34-16, but lead in the important category.
0:00 - Here we go in the third.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks go up three on a Beauchemin goal, but Kings get one back on a rare power play strike. It's 3-1 going to the third.
19:30 - RPG line back together after Ryan played without them a bit tonight.
18:24 - LOS ANGELES GOAL (POWER PLAY) - RYAN SMYTH - Kings finally break through on their sixth power play, as Doughty slaps a shot from the point that doesn't have a lot of steam on it as he breaks his stick. Smyth, screening in front, is able to redirect it off his own thigh, then off the crossbar, where it hits Ellis in the back and sneaks over the stripe. First PP goal in seven games for the Kings and it's 3-1 Ducks.
17:16 - ANA Penalty - Toni Lydman, 2 min. holding. Lydman behind the net.
16:45 - Beleskey hustles to the puck and pays, getting taken into the wall by Brown. But he's up and sprinting right after it.
14:48 - Yet another kill for the Ducks, who are 5 for 5.
It's 2-0 Sharks going into the third. Could it happen?
14:29 - Ellis with another huge stop with Smyth draped all over him and he manages to keep the puck out despite being on his back.
12:48 - ANA Penalty - Matt Beleskey, 2 min. delay of game. Beleskey sends it over the glass. Good for one lucky fan, bad for the Quack.
11:45 - Ryan knocks down Richardson hard, and wants some more, but it's not gonna happen.
8:54 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN - Ducks get a final chance on the power play and take advantage, as Koivu hits Beauchemin at the left point and he rifles a slap shot just under Quick's leg pad and glove. It's 3-0 Ducks.
8:30 - Selanne with a bad turnover on the power play and Brown has no one near him on the breakaway. He dekes to the backhand and Ellis lunges to make a monster save. Fowler then gives the puck away and Ellis makes another save on the ensuing slap shot. He's on.
San Jose leads Phoenix with six minutes left in the second. If that game and this game stay the way they are, Ducks are ... can't believe this ... fourth.
6:57 - LAK Penalty - Kevin Westgarth, 2 min. roughing. Pileup of angry hockey players behind the Anaheim net, and Westgarth gets the only penalty.
6:40 - My Name is Luca with a bad giveaway as he tries to make a move in his own end, but Brown's shot is too high.
5:45 - Penner tries a wraparound, but Ellis gets the leg over at the last instant and then dives on it.
4:53 - Ellis hangs on nicely to get the whistle.
Staples Center has a Lemonheads ad on their dasherboard. Underrated candy. Reminds me of my youth.
1:50 - Handzus gets lost behind the defense and Ellis makes a great save on him mano a mano.
I have to admit, always good coffee in the Staples Center press box. Slow elevators, however.
0:00 - Here we go in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Good first for the Ducks, who get goals from McMillan and Koivu to go up 2-0.
Bad wi-fi here again, by the way, so apologies if the updates are late.
18:25 - Scary moment as an Ellis saves rebounds in front, but Kings can't jump on it.
15:48 - The two Princeton guys, Parros and Westgarth, go at it again, with a lot of clutching and grabbing, a couple of body shots and not much else before they run out of gas. Probably another disagreement on Pious Disciplines and Modern Lives: The Culture of the Fiqh in the Turkish Islamic Tradition.
15:41 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - SAKU KOIVU - Phenomenal play by Perry, who takes the puck down low from Getzlaf and makes a no-look backhand pass across the top of the crease to Koivu, who punches it into the yawning net. It's 2-0 Ducks as this place gets real quiet.
15:12 - LAK Penalty - Matt Greene, 2 min. hooking. Greene commits the infraction in front of his own net. Ducks on a brief 5-on-3.
14:10 - Brookbank goes after Richardson after the Kings winger runs into Ellis after a stop and hold. No penalties.
13:27 - ANAHEIM GOAL - BRANDON MCMILLAN - Right off the draw, McMillan shoots on Quick and the rebound flips up into the air. At around chest height, McMillan bats it into the net. They do a review to see if he knocked it in with a high stick, and the call on the ice stands. Boos from the home crowd as the Ducks lead it 1-0.
13:23 - LAK Penalty - 2 min. too many men on the ice. Ducks get bailed out by a bad change.
11:58 - ANA Penalty - Lubomir Visnovsky, 4 min. roughing and LAK Jarret Stoll, 2 min. roughing. Visnovsky knocks down Stoll as Ellis saves and holds, so Stoll gives Lubo a check right in the chest. Lubo, unlike Lubo, smacks Stoll right in the head, sparking a mini brawl. For some reason, Visnovsky gets 2 extra.
10:19 - Perry's stick gets knocked from his hands as Fowler shoots on net and it goes flying in front of the net. Now Perry's stick, not just Perry, is running into goalies.
8:44 - Kings throw a couple slap shots on net, each wide or off Ellis. Another kill.
6:44 - ANA Penalty - Jarkko Ruttu, 2 min. roughing. A little action after Ellis freezes the puck.
5:23 - Nice kill for the Ducks as the Kings get little going in those four minutes.
3:10 - Ryan and McMillan get on a 2-on-1 shorthanded and Ryan's pass goes right under McMillan's stick.
3:00 - This penalty is going to feel like its lasting longer than that anthem.
2:28 - Delay while Ellis tries to get his mask worked on, at one point biting one of the ties to supposedly tighten it.
1:23 - ANA Penalty - Francois Beauchemin, 4 min. high sticking. Beauchemin gets the double minor for sticking Smyth in the face, and Smyth goes off the ice in some discomfort.
Starting early with the organist prompting the "Ducks suck" chants. Always a pleasure.
0:00 - And we're underway at Staples Center.
7:39 - Actor/singer Kevin Odekirk sings a rather elongated version of the anthem and the Kings go without fan favorite Davis Gaines. A Kings fan yells "Ducks suck!" near the beginning of the song. You stay class, LA.
Ellis gets the start for the second straight night as Emery is out again. Marchant scratched again with the flu.