By Adam Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LOS ANGELES – In a playoff-like atmosphere at Staples Center, the Ducks missed a golden opportunity to continue their charge to the actual playoffs against the rival Kings.
Jeff Carter had his first two goals in a Kings uniform to give LA a lead, and the Ducks couldn’t get the equalizer in the third in a deflating 4-2 loss before an amped sellout crowd.
Anze Kopitar put the final dagger in the Ducks when he buried an empty-netter from the Anaheim blue line with 14.5 seconds remaining. It sealed the fourth win Los Angeles in five Freeway Face-Off games this season, including the third straight at Staples Center.
“It’s a tough one", said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, as Anaheim fell to 9-9-2 in back-to-backs this season. "We’re pretty disappointed in this locker room mostly with our effort. We weren’t as good as we needed to be to play tonight."
The Ducks had a few opportunities around the Kings net in the third period, but Jonathan Quick turned away all 11 shots and had 29 saves on the night. Jonas Hiller, making his 25th straight start for Anaheim, saved 16 of 19 Kings shots. Meanwhile, special teams were a factor for both squads, as the Ducks couldn’t convert on four power play opportunities and the Kings scored twice on four power plays.
"They came out and played a strong game and we didn’t respond the way we needed to, especially on our special teams", said Getzlaf. "That was the difference in the hockey game.”
On a night when the rest of the NHL scoreboard was friendly to the Ducks (San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix all lost), Anaheim could have gotten to within five points of the eighth spot in the Western Conference and two short of the Kings in ninth. The Kings instead pulled six points ahead of Anaheim and within just a point of Dallas for eighth in the West. The Ducks have 16 games left in the regular season.
“There’s no doubt in here that we can still make this thing happen," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. “Our group has never stopped believing this whole time and we’re not going to now.”
Carter, picked up by LA in a trade with Columbus on February 23, got his first two goals as a King to give them a 3-1 lead in the second. Carter got the first when he punched in a loose puck that was bouncing around just outside the crease. The second came a few minutes after the Ducks had killed off a two-man advantage, as Carter’s former Flyers teammate Mike Richards fed Carter in the slot, and he sent it past Hiller.
The Ducks got back to within a goal as Devante Smith-Pelly whipped a shot from the right wing circle under Quick and just inside the far post for his first goal since December 8. But that was the last of the scoring for Anaheim.
For the seventh straight game, the Ducks gave up the game’s first goal, as LA notched its first power play goal when Hiller couldn’t control a rebound and Dustin Brown swept it in at 12:15 of the first.
The Ducks pulled even when Sheldon Brookbank slung a wrist shot from the high right wing that sailed past Quick, who was screened by defenseman Matt Greene. After going 167 games without a goal, it was Brookbank’s third in the last nine games.
While the Kings hadn’t played since Tuesday, the Ducks just completed a stretch of five games in seven nights, in which they suffered three losses they can ill-afford in their flickering late charge for the postseason.
20:00 - END OF GAME - It's over at Staples, 4-2.
19:45 - LOS ANGELES GOAL (EMPTY NET) - ANZE KOPITAR - Richards picks up the puck near the wall and sends it ahead to Kopitar, who finds the empty net from the Anaheim blue line. It's 4-2 with 14.5 to go.
19:10 - Ducks have chances in deep, but it's knocked away.
18:40 - Hiller to the bench.
18:36 - Timeout Anaheim with 1:24 to go. I feel nauseous.
17:47 - Ducks miss a golden opportunity as Quick is swimming in his crease and still manages to knock down a Koivu backhand. That one hurt.
16:25 - Ducks touch up for icing with 3:35 left. It's nervous time.
14:50 - Hiller with another big stop in traffic.
13:25 - Hiller sprawls out on his belly to deny Carter a third goal.
9:00 - Beleskey with a couple of chances from the slot, but can't cash in.
Little kid plays This or That during the timeout. When he's asked Dodgers or Angels, he says, "Angels!" Good boy. Crowd boos. Then they do the same with Jonathan Bernier in a taped piece and he also says Angels.
7:43 - Visnovsky with a late shot on the power play that Quick easily gloves.
5:51 - LAK Penalty - Drew Doughty, 2 min. hooking. Selanne earns the call by poking the puck to himself and forcing Doughty to hook him as he speeds up right wing.
5:00 - Perry's hands are just stupid good.
1:28 - Perry gets an open look from the slot, and his shot knocks Quick's helmet off. Play whistled dead.
0:00 - Here we go in a huge third period.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Carter lights the lamp twice, but the Ducks get one back from Smith-Pelly and it's 3-2 going into a huge third period. Ducks outshooting LA, 20-12.
An elderly couple leads off Kiss Cam here at Staples Center. Nice. Then it's Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, as they smooch and she gives the thumbs up. Gotta admit, that was kinda cool.
14:06 - ANAHEIM GOAL - DEVANTE SMITH-PELLY - Ducks get one right back, as Cogliano makes a pretty cross-ice pass to Smith-Pelly on the rush, and DSP makes a perfect wrist shot from the top of the right wing circle that gets under Quick and darts inside the far post. It's 3-2 on his first goal since December 8.
13:53 - LOS ANGELES GOAL - JEFF CARTER - Ducks, still looking gassed after killing those two penalties, finally get bit. A rebound comes off Hiller and it sent from Richards to Carter in the slot, and he shuttles it past Hiller for his second of the period. It's 3-1 Kings.
12:20 - Ducks escape, as the Kings send a ton of shots on net, several of which hit nothing but board.
11:33 - Hiller reaches way up high to snatch a point shot out of the air. Good play because it gives the Ducks a change just after they get Bonino back.
10:20 - ANA Penalty - Corey Perry, 2 min. tripping. Perry takes down a King away from the puck. Uh oh time as the Kings get a lengthy 5-on-3.
Dude playing the higher-lower playing card game at the timeout is wearing that old Kings third jersey with the bearded king head on the chest. Not their best.
9:22 - ANA Penalty - Nick Bonino, 2 min. interference. Bonino gets tangled with Clifford, who flies into the net. Interesting.
9:15 - Bonino with his second really nice defensive play of the night.
7:45 - Ducks don't get much going on that power play, though a late Ryan bad-angle shot rebounds high just past Selanne in front.
6:54 - Kings really pressuring the point, as Fowler fires a shot that Quick takes in.
5:34 -LAK Penalty - Matt Greene, 2 min. interference. Greene gets too aggressive trying to keep Getzlaf from chasing his own dumped puck.
5:00 - Koivu kicks Selanne's pass to his stick and quickly fires off Quick.
2:39 - LOS ANGELES GOAL (POWER PLAY) - JEFF CARTER - Two former Flyers figure into this one, as a Richards shot rebounds off Hiller and bounces around in front before Carter punches it in for his first as a King since being picked up from Columbus. It's 2-1 Columbus.
2:21 - ANA Penalty - Niklas Hagman, 2 min. tripping. Hagman gets his feet tangled with Scuderi as the Ducks attack. Kings get an early PP.
0:00 - Off and running in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Brown gets the Kings on the board first, but the Ducks get one back from Brookbank. It's 1-1.
19:29 - Selanne can't believe his luck as Scuderi knocks down a mis-hit shot from in deep with an open net, then Selanne can't swat the rebound past Quick's glove. HUGE missed opportunity for Anaheim.
18:27 - LAK Penalty - Dustin Brown, 2 min. holding. Brown grabs onto Brookbank in the corner, learning that you can't stop Sheldon Brookbank. You can only try to contain him.
18:10 - Hiller with some scariness behind the net, as he loses his footing trying to play it. Ducks get away with it.
15:42 - ANAHEIM GOAL - SHELDON BROOKBANK - Right off the draw, Ryan taps the puck back to Brookbank, who wrists a high shot over a shielded Quick's shoulder. Quick was screened by his own guy, Greene. It's the third in nine games for Brookbank, after he went 167 games without one. Wow.
15:30 - Blake picks off a pass and heads down left wing. He feeds Cogliano, who almost banks it in off Quick's back.
12:15 - LOS ANGELES GOAL (POWER PLAY) - DUSTIN BROWN - Hiller stops a Martinez slap shot from the high left wing, but he can't tuck in the rebound, and Brown takes it and sweeps it in from the left post. It's 1-0. Seventh straight game in which the Ducks have given up the first goal. They're 3-3 in the first six.
Lucky Seat contest sponsored by Pizza Hut gives away 52 free pizzas to the winner. Can't figure out why we have an obesity problem in this country.
10:58 - ANA Penalty - Luca Sbisa, 2 min. slashing. Carter sneaks behind the defense and Sbisa hacks him with the stick as he's shooting it. Replay look like he didn't get any help from Sbisa on whiffing the shot, but 5 goes to the bin.
10:30 - Parros picks up a loose puck near the net and fires off Quick.
Feels just a little bit playoffy in here tonight, like the first goal will light this place up.
6:04 - Blake with Anaheim's first shot on the PP, from the right wing.
5:10 - Kopitar picks off a pass and sends Brown off into a breakaway, but Hiller forces him below the right post.
4:36 - LAK Penalty - Jarret Stoll, 2 min. charging. Stoll leaps into a shoulder hit on Sbisa.
Organist plays the fans into a "Ducks suck" chant. Earlier it was the "Hilllllllerrrrrr" chant.
2:21 - Right off the draw, Beleskey and Fraser get into it, with Beleskey pummelling Fraser with a few hard rights and winning this won by unanimous decision. Beleskey has proven himself to be quite the fighter on a number of occasions this year.
2:20 - A couple of Kings hits, the last by Greene, leads to some pushes and shoves after the whistle behind the LA net.
0:00 - And we're underway at Staples Center. It's goosebump time.
In true Staples Center fashion, Angel Reda sings a rather glitzy version of the anthem. Starters in bold/italics.