Familiarity breeds contempt and for the Ducks and Kings, there is plenty of contempt.
In the first meeting of the season on Tuesday night, the two teams showed why they are both at the top of the Pacific Division and the NHL to a standing room only Honda Center.
The game took not only overtime, but a nine round shootout to finally decide who got the three points. When all was said and done, Los Angeles walked out of the building with two points in the 3-2 defeat of Anaheim.
Were it not for Jonas Hiller, who stopped 49 out of 51 shots on goal, the Ducks would not have even garnered a point out of the affair.
"We got in the lanes and got a lot of blocks and everything else, but it's just the whole … it's the work ethic," said coach Bruce Boudreau. "The work ethic has got to get a lot better. When you have the opportunity on your stick, whether you deserve to win the game or not, you’ve got to put it away."
Hiller could not stop everything and Jeff Carter put the Kings on the board at 7:05 of the second period. Ryan Getzlaf got his 14th of the year to tie up the game less than a minute later at 7:51.
The Ducks had their first lead of the evening on a power play goal from Corey Perry at 2:14 of the third.
Clearly both teams were pretty close, as evidenced when Dustin Brown tied up the game again at 5:43. Nothing else changed for the remainder of regulation, despite good chances on both sides. Overtime did nothing to solve the impasse either.
Time for a shootout at the Honda corral. But both Hiller and Martin Jones, who made his NHL debut for the Kings, were deflecting pucks like the Matrix.
Usually these things are decided in three rounds, with an occasional extra thrown in every now and again. Not these two teams. For eight rounds, Hiller was perfect, with a seemingly different move for each save made. Jones was equally steadfast with nothing going in behind him.
By round nine, both sides had gone through a good portion of their shooters. Finally Dwight King got one past Hiller. Jones stayed firm against Mathieu Perreault to give the Kings the extra point and the win.
"It’s tough to lose that way," said Hiller. "I don’t know if he missed the shot a little bit, but it kind of caught me right between the pad and my glove. It’s a tough one. All you can do as a goalie is make as many stops as you can, and hope the guys up front score at some point."
So instead of making any kind of separation in the standings, everyone stands firm. The Ducks are still second in the Pacific Division, behind San Jose, and the Kings are just one point behind Anaheim.
"You want to put teams behind you," said Nick Bonino, who recently signed a three year contract extension worth $5.7 million. "Our division has five teams in the top-nine in the West. It’s a tough division to get out of. It’s a fun division to play in because of that. But games like these, tight games, we need to close out if we have a lead in the third, or if we have chances to win in a shootout."
This is just game one of a four game series between the two clubs. Game #2 will be on January 23, in Anaheim, just two days before meeting up at Dodger Stadium for the Stadium Series game. The final meeting will not be until March, but by then there will be even more familiarity….and contempt.
The Ducks now get a couple days off before meeting up with Chicago (who lead the NHL) on Friday and St. Louis (also contending in the West) on Saturday.