The Kings and Ducks have always produced a tug-of-war dynamic, spiked with as much hatred as any rivals in the NHL. But they decided to keep their gloves on Friday to exchange different kinds of blows.
The Ducks continued to pull themselves up with a 2-1 win that drew them even with the Kings with 53 points in the Pacific Division. The Kings got pushed further down with their sixth straight loss and no end in sight for an offense that has scored three goals in three games.
Ryan Kesler delivered the game-winner on a deflection with 7:39 to play in the third period and the Ducks fended off the extra-attacker surge by the Kings in front of an announced 17,258 standing-room only crowd at Honda Center.
"That was a huge win for us, coming off the last game and trying to keep this going, keep the momentum going at home for this homestand," said Adam Henrique, who gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead in the third period. "I thought we played well. They were in a back-to-back situation and we were trying to take advantage of that in the first period and get pucks and bodies to the net. They came back with a push in the second period and I thought we did a good job responding and coming out hard in the third."
The Ducks are still out of a playoff spot, but their outlook is far sunnier than that of the Kings, who managed only Alex Iafallo's third-period goal to tie it 1-1. The Kings have not held a lead since Jan. 4, or six games ago.
It was enough for Anze Kopitar to bring out the u-word.
"I think we're not playing with enough urgency and we're just kind of waiting around for things to kind of unwind," Kopitar said. "As opposed to just going and take it and dictate the tempo and kind of dictate the pace. It's frustrating right now, but it's the guys in this locker room that are going to pull through this. We're on the outside looking in now."
Unlike their previous matchup that saw three fights in a four-second span, the teams played a comparatively less wild, scoreless game for more than two periods. Henrique finally ended the drought with an all-out dive to keep a possession going in the corner. He went to the net and somehow got Ondrej Kase's rebound across the goal line as a heap of bodies crashed down.
Iafallo's third goal this season happened when the Kings got bodies in front of Ducks goalie John Gibson, who faced only 15 shots in the first 40 minutes. Kopitar crowded the slot next to Hampus Lindholm, and Iafallo was open to swat in the loose puck at 4:48.
That type of score is what the Kings need to get going offensively again. They've scored 11 goals in the six-game losing streak and morale is becoming a challenge.
"We've been talking about it, and I think we've got to go and play," defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "Losing streaks are going happen throughout seasons, and it's how you respond to them. We've got to respond."
Brown fined, but not suspended
Kings forward Dustin Brown was fined $10,000 for cross-checking Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Just-in Schultz, the league announced Friday following a hearing with Brown.
Hearings usually result in a fine or suspension. Brown avoided the latter even though he has history, having been suspended two games for an illegal elbow to the head of Jason Pominville in 2013.
He is not considered a repeat offender because more than 18 months have passed since that incident.
Brown was given a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for his third-period hit on Schultz, who was on his knees when Brown cross-checked him into the boards.