After waiting for the first half of the season, it finally seems like the offense has arrived.
The Anaheim Ducks scored the first three goals of the game, en route to a comfortable, impressive 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at STAPLES CENTER to earn their fifth straight win.
"We're playing better hockey. It starts in our zone, we're getting in and out of our zone a lot faster which enables us to play down there," said Ryan Getzlaf on NBCSN.
For long stretches of the game the Ducks (24-18-7) were able to neutralize the Kings forecheck with quick, accurate passing out of the defensive zone. The resulting possession helped Anaheim out-attempt the Kings 31-22 at even strength through the first two periods, and hold the Angelenos to a stretch of over 12 minutes spanning the second and third periods without a shot on goal.
Anaheim took advantage of the LA third line for the game's opening goal, with Getzlaf and David Perron breaking free for a two-on-one. Getzlaf received the pass from Perron and faked the return, then snapped his first even strength goal in 299 days over the glove of Jonathan Quick to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead just under nine minutes in to the game.
A crosschecking minor behind the play by Milan Lucic gave Anaheim the first power play of the game, but it came up empty. Just over a minute later Josh Manson head-manned the puck up the near boards for Getzlaf, who threw the puck to the slot with Perron crashing the net. Marian Gaborik rode the Ducks forward into his goalie and net, but the puck caromed off Perron and in to make it a 2-0 lead that Anaheim would take to the first intermission.
Perron has caught fire since arriving from Pittsburgh, putting up three goals and five assists finding near instant chemistry with Getzlaf. After not scoring in the first eight games of the season, and not having points in more than back to back games before the trade, he's been on the scoresheet in five of six games with the Ducks.
The lead swelled to three nearly three minutes into the second period when Drew Doughty lost control of the puck in the neutral zone under pressure. Chris Stewart swooped forward to gain possession and send it right to left across the rink for Ryan Garbutt streaking up the near wall. His wrister beat Quick glove side to chase the Kings starter having surrendered three goals on nine shots in just 22:41.
Los Angeles was able to snatch some momentum back when Kyle Clifford got loose in front of the net and forced Simon Despres to take a hooking penalty, getting a stick in his hands on the rebound. On the ensuing advantage Doughty's shot from the point hit the calf of Tyler Toffoli in the near circle and popped in the air, making a fluttering arc over Gibson and in to make it 3-1. The Ducks challenged the play, but the entry was determined to be onside.
It would be short lived though, as Hampus Lindholm delivered a thunderous check to the hip of Anze Kopitar, hammering him into the boards and drawing the ire of Lucic. He responded with a vicious crosscheck, which prompted Manson to stand up for his teammate and draw matching roughing minors as well.
Lindholm converted on the advantage, juking Kopitar at the blue line and creating a lane for him to hammer a slap shot past the stick side of Jhonas Enroth to give the Ducks a 4-1 lead they'd hold through 40 minutes. The Ducks have scored 35 goals in their last ten games.
"We're just trying to do the same things that got us here as well as put the puck in the net, it seems to be working right now," Getzlaf said.
The third period passed largely without event, save for a goal by Alec Martinez with 23 seconds remaining as Los Angeles outshot Anaheim by a 12-2 margin in the final frame. John Gibson finished with 23 stops to record the win in his first regular season appearance at STAPLES Center. With the win Anaheim remains in third in the Pacific Division, while moving within three points of San Jose and 10 points of Los Angeles with two games in hand.
The Ducks are back at it tomorrow night, their final home game before a seven-game road swing. Anaheim hosts the Arizona Coyotes, who lost 5-4 in overtime to Chicago tonight, at Honda Center 7 PM.
"We're focused on tomorrow, that's a big one for us before we head out on the road. We want to finish this thing off right then go and take care of business on the road," said Getzlaf.