Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea
It was a big night at Staples Center. Not only were the Los Angeles Kings‘ division rivals, the Anaheim Ducks, in town, but Rob Blake’s jersey was retired by the LA franchise prior to the start of the night’s match-up. After a hard-fought battle that could very well be a postseason preview, the Ducks finally beat the Kings in a shootout on Rob Blake Night at Staples Center.
The Ducks played their second game in as many days after defeating the Devils 5-1 at the Honda Center Friday night. The Kings had not played since Wednesday, January 14th when they suffered a 5-3 loss to the visiting New Jersey Devils. The Devils then went on to play the Ducks Friday night
The Ducks began the game with a comfortable lead in the Pacific Division. With at least 10 points on every other team in the division and a 14 point lead on the Kings at the start of the game, the Ducks have shown no sign of slowing down. Meanwhile, the LA Kings had a bit of catching up to do. With the San Jose Sharks and the Calgary Flames showdown happening at the same time in Northern California, a lot could change in the division standings in just this one night.
Centerman Nick Shore joined the LA Kings roster and was making his NHL debut. The 22-year old from Denver Colorado was drafted by the Kings in the 3rd round of the 2011 NHL entry draft. He has been with the Manchester Monarchs after a stint with playing the University of Denver following being drafted. Shore was called up from the AHL following Tanner Pearson’s leg fracture (and subsequent surgery and rehab) and Tyler Toffoli’s ongoing bout with mononucleosis, both of whom were unavailable for the game.
Los Angeles struck first against the Ducks. After a scoreless first with shots on goal about even, the Kings finally got one a little less than halfway through the second from their fourth line. Alec Martinez scored his 5th of the season on a slapshot set up by Jeff Schultz and Kyle Clifford. It was Schultz’s first assist of the season.
Ryan Getzlaf got his 14th goal with less than 6 minutes left on the clock in the second off a rebound to tie the game at one apiece. Getzlaf’s face-off win and a timely rebound off of Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick led to Getzlaf’s game-tying goal. Almost immediately after scoring the goal, LA went on their second power play of the game. Jakob Silfverberg sat for a 4-minute double minor: the result of a high-stick against hit Kings’ Brayden McNabb. The Ducks’ penalty resulted in a Kings’ goal scored by Anze Kopitar to make the score 2-1. Kopitar snuck the puck just past the left pad of Anaheim netminder, Frederik Andersen.
Anaheim surged ahead in terms of chances in the third period, outshooting the Kings 27 to 18 early into the final period of regulation. Drew Doughty’s 2 minute tripping penalty against Ducks’ Corey Perry resulted in Anaheim scoring the tying goal against Quick. A low shot from Sami Vatanen from the top of the face-off circle to the left of Quick was then deflected off of Kings’ defenseman Matt Greene before heading into the net. The goal was Vatanen’s 10th of the year and put the Ducks back in the game with less than half of third remaining.
The late goal by the Anaheim Ducks forced the game into overtime. Overtime was incredibly face paced, with both teams getting some quality chances and goaltenders on both ends coming up with some brilliant saves. However, 5 minutes of OT was not enough to decide the final score and the game went into a shootout. Frederik Andersen was perfect in the SO for Anaheim and Silfverberg’s goal against Quick was enough to win it for the Ducks. The Kings came away with one point, while the Ducks got the extra point. Andersen made 26 saves total, while Quick stopped 29 shots.
The Kings’ shootout loss ties them with the Calgary Flames, who defeated the Sharks in overtime earlier that evening. Both teams are 2 points behind the Vancouver Canucks, and three behind the Sharks.
Jakob Silfverberg was the hero for the Ducks, scoring the winning goal against Quick in the shootout, but Anaheim’s team as a whole played a very strong game. It was a hard-fought win that involved the entire team. There’s a reason the Ducks are one of the best in the league. Not only do that have talent distributed all through their roster, but every line and defensive pairing plays with a fiery passion every single night. They score however they can, dirty goals included. As hard as LA pushed, the Ducks pushed back. The Kings deserve their credit as well. With one game left in this home stand, which will be played against the Flames, the Kings also played with a sense of urgency. It’s a good sign for the Kings, who are in search for another shot at the championships.
Despite losing in the shootout, Anze Kopitar, who scored the second goal of the game to put the Kings ahead 2-1, shined again on the ice on Saturday. The 27-year old center’s contract will expire at the end of this season, but he will have the chance to re-sign with Los Angeles come July 1st. Kopitar has been acknowledged as one to the most underrated centers currently active in the NHL. During the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, Wayne Gretzky had a lot of good things to say about Kopitar in an interview with Ron MacLean, calling him an elite center, comparable to the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews. Kopitar was also recently complemented by rival center, Sharks’ Logan Couture in a neat article on elite centers in The Players’ Tribune. Kopitar has done nothing but quietly put together the numbers and plays to support the praise from Gretzky, Mark Messier, and fellow players, and the game against the Ducks was no different.
The Ducks’ special teams have been doing well, the power play unit in particular. Anaheim has scored on the power play in five games straight.
According to LA Kings Insider, back-up goaltender, Martin Jones, did not participate in the morning skate with the team. There is some speculation that Jones will soon be placed on IR for an unknown, but likely short, period of time.