Despite all fuss and nonsense and just plain over the top spectacle, the first Stadium Series game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings was a rousing success. Especially for Anaheim, who shut out the Kings 3-0 for their second win in a row over their divisional rival.
Inside or out, the Ducks have won the last two meetings against the Kings, and they continue to put distance between themselves and everyone else in the NHL. With a 39-10-5 record, the Ducks are seven points ahead of their nearest competitor. And a full 19 points ahead of the Kings.
In reality, come the post-season, points in the standings won't matter. What will matter will be the games at hand, and if the Kings meet the Ducks in the playoffs, you can be sure they will be out for revenge.
It took a long time for the actual game to be played. KISS had to play. The beach volleyball game had to be broken up, as was the in-line roller hockey scrimmage. The USC marching band had to escort the two teams onto the field. Jordin Sparks had to sing the National Anthem. All the usual pregame ramblings and requisite "so how is this experience?" questions had to be asked. The weather report (pleasant, low 60's, zero wind chill and never snow in the forecast). Dodger broadcast legend, Vin Scully, had a role to play. Wayne Gretzky had to drop the ceremonial puck.
By the time the puck dropped for real, you almost forgot there was supposed to be an actual game.
The Ducks did not forget, though, and they did what they have been doing well all season long.
Corey Perry got his 28th goal of the season by perching himself at Jonathan Quick's goal crease and batting in a loose puck.
Matt Beleskey made it 2-0 at 8:12 with a shot from a tight angle that got lucky by bouncing off Quick's stick and off the far post and in behind the netminder.
"In a game like this, when there’s so much build up to it, when you come out and get two early goals, it’s beneficial," said Cam Fowler. "It took the excitement out of the LA fans and we drowned them out a bit. You have to tip your cap to that team. They played really hard and they threw everything at us."
The Kings had no response for Anaheim, at least in the goals department. Jonas Hiller stopped all 36 shots that Los Angeles threw at him for the shutout, the 20th of his career. Hiller, who had lost his past two starts and did not even play on Thursday against LA in the first of these back to back ventures, looked back to usual self.
"I got in the game early, and we did a really good job of clearing space so I could see shots," said Hiller.
Despite the good ice conditions (bonus credit to Dan Craig and his amazing ice crew, who proved you CAN have an outdoor game in Southern California), the ice was not perfect. It was a little slow, which made it tough on the Kings to bounce back. Certainly it was not the physical, hard hitting game that Thursday night's tilt turned out to be.
When they pulled Quick for the extra attacker, Andrew Cogliano got the insurance marker in the empty net at 18:31, and all that was left was the clock to count down and the rinkside fireworks.
Because it was supposed to be a home game for the Kings, not a single goal horn went off, which was about the only thing missing in the whole experience.
The crowd of over 54,000 people, tilted a bit more towards Kings fans over Ducks fans, left having received a good show.
Although Kings fans left a little more sour than Ducks fans. So did the Kings. While the Ducks saluted and acknowledged the crowd after the game, the Kings fans went straight to their locker room. No hand shake (usually reserved for playoff games, but often seen in these outdoor ventures). No salute to the crowd. Just a bitter taste in their mouth for having lost five in a row.
"It was awesome," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "When we got out there and saw the people and the support of Southern California, it was unbelievable. The whole week has been a blast."
Commissioner Gary Bettman, who had to catch a red eye charter to New York for another Stadium Series game on Sunday, would not commit to another outdoor game in California.
"We're going to have more opportunities to consider," said Bettman, acknowledging the game's success. "We're going to have more warm-climate clubs that are going to want the opportunity. We don't want to wait 10 years to get it back (in California). What makes this so special is what it does for our fans in terms of giving them a fun, unique, special way of connecting with the game."
The players were definitely ready to go again.
"This was so much fun," said Teemu Selanne, who plans to retire after this season, but can now add this new experience to his myriad of memories. "There wasn’t one thing to say negative about this. It was unbelievable. We should do it in Anaheim, or San Jose, or anywhere."
Agreed. Just with maybe a little less circus atmosphere and more emphasis on the actualy hockey.