There were distinct flickers of playoff-like hate, here and there Saturday night at Staples Center.
You had Kings forward Jeff Carter and Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin snapping and taking jabs at each other behind the play in the first period with Carter later clearing out the defenseman along the boards.
Then there was the game-within-a-game battle between Ducks star forward Corey Perry and Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, flaring again at the end of the second period.
This may have been short of a true preview of what could possibly be a first-ever playoff matchup between the Ducks and the Kings. It was more like Playoff Lite, a 2-1 win by the Ducks.
There was a controversial moment with 6:23 remaining when an apparent goal by Kings center Anze Kopitar was waved off because it was ruled there was incidental contact between Kings forward Marian Gaborik and Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen.
Fans threw debris on the ice in protest.
Gaborik said he had not seen the replay of the controversial play.
"They called it that I touched the goalie before the puck went in, but I don’t know," he said.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter kept his summation of the waved-off goal short, saying: "Gaborik trying to get out of the way of the goalie."
Said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau: "They ran right into our goalie. I’ve seen so many, a lot less things called for penalties. I’m surprised they didn’t get a penalty. We knew automatically, that there was no way that was going to count.”
The Kings were without their No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, who has flu but was able to serve as backup to Martin Jones, and captain Dustin Brown, who also has been unwell.
Anaheim was minus Teemu Selanne, but that was not a surprise because the Ducks have been resting him when they have been in back-to-back situations. A significant loss for the Ducks was the absence of defenseman Cam Fowler, who suffered a lower-body injury in their 6-4 win on Friday night at Colorado.
This time, the heroes were unlikely ones.
Anaheim's goal-scorers were not the likes of captain Ryan Getzlaf or Perry. But it was fourth-liner Tim Jackman in the first period and Patrick Maroon in the second, who had a combined eight goals coming into this game, scoring for the Ducks.
Getzlaf talked about the Ducks' immediate response after losing to the lowly Calgary Flames, 7-2, on Wednesday night.
"We had a pretty spirited conversation in the locker room during that game," he said. "At the end of it we tried to just scrap that game. During the game, we talked amongst ourselves about what we were doing wrong.
"Obviously, our guys responded tremendously and that’s all we can really ask. You’re going to have those games from time to time. The response is what we’re looking for."
The Ducks' immediate response to adversity was impressive.
"What I’ve said the whole time is that when you have those downfall games where you don’t play well, you can easily pack it up and take the next couple off and try to find your way back," Getzlaf said. "Our guys didn’t do that. They did a great job responding and played two good hockey teams."
The lone Kings goal came, on the power play, in the second period at 11:21 from youngster Tyler Toffoli, who converted a rebound of Jarret Stoll's initial shot. It was Toffoli's 11th goal of the season and his first since Feb. 3.
They had gone on the power play when Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy went off for hooking Gaborik.
At least the Kings scored, unlike their last meeting against the Ducks, in the outdoor game at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25.
They had gone 148 minutes and 8 seconds without scoring against the Ducks, dating back to the first period of their game against Anaheim on Jan. 23.
Anaheim responded quickly. The Ducks scored only 51 seconds after Toffoli tied it.
The game-winner came from Maroon, whose centering pass banked off the skate of sliding Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, going past Jones, at 12:12. It was Maroon's first goal since Jan. 30.
"It was a good hockey game," Getzlaf said. "It was back and forth and a little chippy here and there. Those are the games we’ve got to get used to down the stretch."
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, going for his 500th regular-season win, had been critical of the line of Brown, Stoll and Dwight King.
Brown played a mere 10:12 on Thursday against Toronto, and Sutter said the line looked "tired."
Brown, who wasn't used on the penalty kill against the Maple Leafs, was critical of himself but said he might have used another word instead of tired.
"I haven't had a very good year. I'm the first one to say that," he told reporters Saturday morning.
"As a player you're not happy, but he's a coach and I'm a player and that's how it works. It was just one of those things where, as a player, I feel I can contribute more. He thought our line was not as good. Ultimately it's his call. That's how it works."
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