Ducks started with good energy. Got in on the forecheck, forced turnovers, and got pucks on net instead of focusing on the perfect shot. The Ducks made a point of laying the body on the Kings. Ryan Kesler got in a great hit on Drew Doughty, and Emerson Etem was throwing his weight around too. I saw Etem lay at least three solid hits in his first two shifts.
The first great chance came for the Kings. As Cam Fowler challenged the puck carrier coming into the zone, a late man for L.A. joined the rush and Ben Lovejoy was left with a 2-on-1 down low that never fully materialized. The newly formed line of Etem, Rickard Rakell and Jiri Sekac responded though. Etem found Rakell all alone in front of the net. Ricky had to go skate to stick through his legs, but put the backhander high and wide. That line was really clicking early on.
Andrew Cogliano was on the rush with Kesler, and he had two trailers wide open at the left point, and he just missed them. All the LOLs...
The Kings got the first power play; it wasn't dangerous. You know what was dangerous? Trevor Lewis coming down his off wing one minute after the kill. He slipped by Francois Beauchemin's hip check, which was a fraction too late, and carried to the front of the crease before slipping it passed John Gibson. 1-0 Kings.
The Ducks were carrying play for the first 6-8 minutes, but the Kings came back during the rest of the period. Ducks had a little more life after they gave up the goal, but still ended the period down 1-0.
The Ducks kept up the hitting in hopes of wearing down the Kings over the full 60 minutes. Anze Kopitar is really good at hockey. He sped down the wing, and Lovejoy had to give up the chase at the side of the net. If Jacob Silfverberg didn't stop the cross-ice pass, Marian Gaborik would have made it a two-goal lead. Luckily, the Ducks' bottom six had the response. Etem put a nice stop move on Robyn Regher behind the Kings' net so he could set up Rakell for an opportunity. After that, the Patrick Maroon- Chris Wagner - Tim Jackman line had all the time they wanted to control the puck in the offensive zone. There was only one serious scoring chance, Maroon's shot-maybe pass-went off the toe of Martin Jones, and just missed Jackman.
Seriously though, Etem-Rakel-Sekac had been the best line to this point in the game. They were keeping up the pressure. It led to Josh Manson having the time and space to carry it all the way down to the crease. Unfortunately, all that work was wasted. The Kings had possession for what seemed like the first time in the second period around the midway point of the game, and a point shot by Brayden McNabb made it to the crease where it deflected in off of Hampus Lindholm who was doing battle up front. And despite the Ducks playing well, they were once again down two goals before the end of the second period. 2-0 Kings.
The goal seemed to energize the Kings as they spent more time in the Anaheim zone. John Gibson kept the Ducks in the game by stoning Jeff Carter on a breakaway. After that, Hampus Lindholm took a turn to save the game. Justin Williams received a stretch pass and had a partial breakaway. Hampy got between Williams and a swimming Gibson, effectively tying up Williams' stick and preventing him from handling the puck.
The period ended with the Ducks down one more goal than when they entered.
Five minutes into the period, the Ducks finally found the score sheet. With Cogliano and Silf buzzing on the forecheck, Cogs forced the puck down the boards, where Silf crashed with an L.A. defender. The puck trickled out to Ryan Kesler who buried one to bring the Ducks within one. 2-1 Kings.
Not to be outdone, the young guns line tied the game. Etem carried the puck into the zone, and was nearly knocked completely out of the play. But, as the puck rolled away from him, he laid out to poke the puck deep into the zone. Rakell whipped the puck to the crease, and it went in on off Etem. Tie hockey game 2-2.
Etem managed to make a good move in center ice and carry over the blue line. He dropped it off to Rakell who was about 12 inches away from giving the Ducks a lead. With half a period left, the Ducks were buzzing.
The top line decided to make a special appearance. Getzlaf chipped the puck up and over Doughty who only barely got a touch. The puck bounced to Corey Perry who was wide open because Kyle Palmieri was engaged with Jake Muzzin. Perry slipped it between the pads. Ducks up 3-2.
The young guys did it again, Sekac drew the first power play for the Ducks at 16:05 of the third period when he got a high stick from Jeff Carter. The PP didn't do anything though.
Perry padded his stats with an empty netter. Game to the Ducks.
The Good: The Ducks got goals from three different lines tonight. Spreading out the scoring was a key factor the tired Kings couldn't keep up with wave after wave of Duck pressure. More importantly, that spread out scoring also showed the Ducks' ability to stick with the game plan, even when the early bounces didn't go their way.
The Bad: Remember when I said the Ducks showed they could stick to the game plan? Well, it was a lesson that was learned as they once again had to come from behind. I know people like to point to it as a sign of resiliency, but playing from behind all the time isn't the best strategy for winning in the playoffs. We should stop doing that.
The Ugly: Brian Hayward. I try to stick up for him from time-to-time, because he's our guy. I think it's important to represent your team, even when they employ people like Hayward. However, tonight was the last straw for me. Early in the broadcast, John Ahlers started talking about primary assists being a sign of a true playmaker, and Hayward started talking about primary assists like it was some new stat that only emerged as a result of the new NHL advanced stats page. Later on, he mocked Fenwick and Corsi on the basis that the Ducks were being outshot but still losing on the scoreboard. Of course, the top shot producing team won tonight, but that's not the point. I don't write as much as I used to, but I know how hard it is to keep this site flush with content. It takes a lot of work. The bloggers who worked to create all that advanced data deserve more credit for the countless hours that they put in to enhance EVERYONE'S understanding of how the game we love works. Hayward was classless tonight in dismissing the contributions of those people.
3rd MVD: Bruce Boudreau. This is an award for staying out of the way. We didn't see the line blender tonight, and no Anaheim forward played 19 minutes. BB gets props for staying out of his team's way.
2nd MVD: Corey Perry. He had the game winner and the empty net goal that salted the game. Threw a monster hit on Jake Muzzin just to be thorough. He might not have been present all game, but he came through to get us a victory.
1st MVD: Long Beach and Europe. I'm still working on a name. I was lamenting to my partner that if Sekac was from Sweden, I would have called it the LBSwede line. Sadly, that fool is from the Czech Republic. The moral of the story is that they were bringing it all game. They were consistently the best line tonight, and their effort was rewarded. Lets hope this line can stick together for a while and keep up the good work we saw tonight.
Next Game: Sunday, March 1st, at the Dallas Stars 5 P.M. on NBCSN