In the final pre-season game for the Ducks, they needed some redemption against their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. The last outing against them was an 8-3 drubbing by the Kings at Staples Center, an affair that led coach Randy Carlyle to comment that it appeared the team had never practiced defensive zone coverage. Subpar specialty teams and close but no cigar efforts by the Ducks needed to be turned around asap.
After all, the regular season starts in just five short days. For the Ducks, it was now or never.
The first period started off well after a brief hiccup that sent Corey Perry to the penalty box for his usual goaltender interference at just :31 seconds into the game. Perry got his ultimate revenge on Jonathan Bernier by poking the puck past the goalie while on his knees at 3:16. The Ducks were on a 5 on 3 and did what they were supposed to – score.
The Kings appeared to tie up the game when Wayne Simmonds got a puck past Jonas Hiller, but the referee had clearly blown the whistle for a slashing penalty on the Ducks just seconds prior. That allowed the Ducks to keep a 1-0 lead going into the second period.
Despite continuing to outshoot the Ducks, the Kings could not manage to put a puck behind Hiller, although they came mighty close on several occasions. The Ducks were fortunate to exit the second period still holding on to their lead. The final 20 minutes would be critical for the Ducks.
Anaheim, enjoying playing with fire, continued to send players to the penalty box. Not exactly a good idea, especially with the penalty kill struggling. This time the group was up to the ask, including a 5 on 3 for the Kings less than a minute into the third period. The Kings helped by evening things up.
The Ducks then took advantage of the 4 on 4 situation with a pretty goal from newly minted captain, Ryan Getzlaf, at 2:24. Getzlaf did not have a prior shot on goal in the game, but he made this one count by finishing off a nice pass from Brendan Mikkelson.
“I’m honored to be wearing that C,” said Getzlaf, who will get plenty of great support from his assistant captains, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. “I’m following in some pretty good footsteps. It’s something I’ve been working for for a long time. The letter is still just a letter. It doesn’t change who I am as a player.”
Getzlaf and the rest of his team were not done playing, although the 2-0 lead did give the Ducks a bit more breathing room.
Los Angeles could not be faulted for their frustrations at getting nothing past Hiller for most of the game. Being unable to stay out of the penalty box themselves. Drew Doughty, a Norris Trophy candidate last year, made three visits alone.
It took a short-handed goal by Justin Williams at 15:50 to get the Kings on the board. It was their 38th shot on goal and it just barely slipped past Hiller’s skate as he tried to protect the right post. Allowing the second shortie in as many games was a reminder that, although improved, specialty teams still have a long way to go for the Ducks.
Williams helped the Kings tie up the game at 17:17 by making a nice pass to Jack Johnson at the blue line. Johnson’s shot went through plenty of traffic and right between Hiller’s butterflied legs. For a guy who had made so many great saves in the first 57 minutes, he looked a little sheepish, even though he could not see the shot.
With that boo-boo, the game went to overtime, the first (and only) time for the Ducks in pre-season. The Kings neglected to remember that there are only four players on the ice in overtime and got caught with five. Selanne finished things off at 1:03 with the power play goal.
Certainly some redemption, but the team has a way to go.
“Tonight we did a lot of things well,” said Carlyle. “But then we fell back. In the end, we found a way to get it done.”
The Ducks will have to find some creative ways to get it done in the days ahead, but at least they are headed in the right direction.