The Ducks lost one of their big-minutes defensemen and penalty-killers before the game was seven minutes old.
Meanwhile, the Kings were down a forward by the 6:58 mark and lost another for the final two periods.
Which raises the questions: How can these teams possibly survive a playoff series against each other? And will anyone be able to walk? For the second time in less than a week, the Ducks beat the Kings in another compelling, hard-fought contest and grabbed possession of first place in the Pacific Division, having won a franchise-record 11 straight games.
Anaheim won, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, sparked by power-plays goals by David Perron and Jakob Silfverberg and an even-strength offering from Ryan Kesler. The official switch at the top of the Pacific Division also coincided with the 400th NHL victory for Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau.
First place in the division had belonged to the Kings since Nov. 23. They entered this game tied with the Ducks in points but were still ahead on the first tiebreaker.
The Ducks climbed over the Kings with a two-pronged attack: continued special-team excellence and an ability to adapt tactically, going toe-to-toe in a fight-filled first period as the teams combined for 68 penalty minutes in that period.
“It was a men’s game out there today,” said Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, who faced 34 shots.
“When you lose a game like this — the biggest game of the year up to this point — it’s a hard one to swallow,” said Kings left wing Milan Lucic, whose power-play goal at 11:14 of the second period tied it, 1-1.
“You just have to do your best to bounce back as quick as you can with only 18 games left.”
Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and Kings forward Andy Andreoff received game misconducts in a first-period melee. But everything else during the fights was overshadowed by the stunning vision of the talented Rickard Rakell of the Ducks squaring off with Kings forward Kris Versteeg. Versteeg (upper-body injury) did not play in the second or third period.
It was the first fight at the pro or junior level for Rakell. In fact, Rakell didn’t remember fighting even as a 10-year-old. He might not need to again after dismissing Versteeg.
“I was shaking throughout the rest of the period,” Rakell said. “I was playing through adrenaline throughout the game.”
Said Andersen: “Undercover tough, I guess. It looked like he got some good punches in there. He did well for himself. It’s obviously cool for everyone to see.”
The Ducks looked amused by his newly discovered ability. They know, however, it won’t be a new thing for the gifted goal-scorer.
“You’re kind of nervous on the bench,” said Perron, whose power-play goal at 15:57 of the second period put the Ducks ahead for good.
“You don’t want anybody to get hurt, break a hand, jaw or concussion. Also to lose Kevin, our D did a tremendous job with the increased ice time.
“There wasn’t much room out there. We just kept on fighting, fighting for space, trying to play the right way.”
The Ducks matched a franchise record by scoring power-play goals in 11 consecutive games, and are 18-1-1 in the last 20 games. The Ducks are 19 for 42 on the power play during their last 11 games.
“I thought we played a decent game but it wasn’t enough,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “We have to be better and we know we can be better.”
Who could have predicted this when the Ducks trailed the Kings by 16 points on Jan. 12?
“We didn’t have that enthusiasm to score,” Boudreau said. “There were a couple of big meetings and players realized they would much rather win than anything else.”
He could secure his 401st NHL win against his former team, the Washington Capitals, on Monday. Boudreau became the fastest coach in NHL history to win 400 games.
“I was lucky in Washington and lucky to have great team here,” Boudreau said.
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa