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Kings Big Second Period Downs Ducks
The last time we saw the Anaheim Ducks at the STAPLES Center, it was the preseason and they had their bills handed to them losing to the Kings 8-3. It seemed that the Ducks had their blue line issues worked out - after all they bodied up on the Kings down low during the first period preventing the Kings from getting to rebounds. In a scoreless first period the Kings barely outshot the Ducks 9-8 with both teams recording ten hits while the Kings gave the puck away six times to the Ducks none.
It really did look like the Kings would have a fight on their hands, much like their first matchup on Nov. 29 at the Honda Ponda which was a 2-0 shutout in favor of the Ducks.
“That first period wasn’t the sharpest,” Anze Kopitar admitted.
But something must have been said in the first intermission because suddenly the Kings were winning all of the battles down low. Case in point after winning the opening faceoff of the second period, Michal Handzus knuckled a pass from the right circle to the front of the net. A Cam Fowler deflection got the puck to land right in front of Wayne Simmonds standing at the left of the crease who eased the puck past Jonas Hiller 15 seconds in the period.
However things seemed like they would fall apart 32 seconds later when the Ducks seeming unfazed by the goal got a loose puck in the neutral zone in front of their bench allowing Toni Lydman’s shot from the blue line to deflect off of Matt Beleskey’s stick and into the net to tie the game.
“It’s one of those plays that is a little frustrating,” Kings head coach Terry Murray said about the quick score. “We’ve been talking about it a lot, and everyone’s aware of the issue.”
But the Kings pressed on. Things didn’t look optimistic at 8:55 period when miscommunication between Dustin Brown and Kopitar at the Kings blue line allowed Corey Perry a wrist shot wide of the net. Despite the blunder, Brown got the puck to Anze Kopitar whose shot from the blue line rebounded to Marco Sturm. Kopitar kept charging to the net as Sturm’s shot rebounded back to Kopitar whose shot at the net went Jonas Hiller 15 seconds after the giveaway.
“That was good to see,” Murray said about the performance of his top line. “They were hungry to get it back. They wanted to be the line that got it back, to give us the one-goal lead again.” Also notable was Sturm’s first point as a King in his third game.
Not content to sit on a one-goal lead, Justin Williams graciously took the giveaway by Joffrey Lupul in the Ducks zone and hit an unassisted one-timer at 12:55. Dustin Brown also got in on the action thanks to a fat rebound at 17:57 that knocked out Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller to the delight of the standing-room only 18,313 STAPLES Center crowd.
“I think we just got our legs underneath us, started skating and making plays,” Kopitar explained on the difference between the first and second periods. “I think we really got after them and really took the game to them.”
“We gave them way too many chances in our slot,” Hiller said. “I probably should have stopped some and no one would talk about it, but it wasn’t good enough tonight.”
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was a bit more forthcoming: “You expect after four days off that they will be rusty in some areas but there was one area we were rusty in and that was competing.”
Curtis McElhinney came out of the bullpen and held the Kings scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Also notable was Kings backup netminder Jonathan Bernier’s 18-save performance.
“This is a solid game by him, no question,” Murray said. “He was very aggressive on the puck and held his ice, played strong in the crease against those big bodies that were jamming away several times.”
Bernier, however, was a little more self-critical.
“I think it wasn’t my greatest game for the rebound,” he said. “I felt like I gave away a lot of rebounds. But guys were there for me in the right spot there, and I was just trying to make that first save.”