Rookie relaxes, gets first points
Ryan Shannon had a feeling his place in the Ducks’ lineup was becoming tenuous.
With the pressure building in his own head and summer acquisition Stanislav Chistov awaiting his chance, Shannon decided to ease his mind and await the results. The rookie forward broke through Sunday with his first two NHL points in a 3-2 shootout win over the Kings.
After making the team with a strong performance in training camp, Shannon went scoreless over his first six games and held a team-worst minus-5 rating. As each game passed, thoughts of being benched intensified.
“I was thinking about it in games three through five,” Shannon said. “I took a step back and realize that I can’t do that. I’ve just got to stop pressing. If you work too hard at it, then it doesn’t come.
“I thought about playing a complete game. Work on getting the puck out through the neutral zone and I’ll eventually get rewarded.”
The reward arrived in the second period when he jumped on Todd Marchant’s feed from behind the net and sneaked a shot past Kings goalie Mathieu Garon that started the Ducks’ rally from a 2-0 deficit.
“It was a great play by Marchant to throw it on the net and throw it out in front,” Shannon said. "[Dustin] Penner went right through and kind of took all the attention.... I just tucked it in and I saw the puck went in maybe a half-inch over the line. It didn’t even get close to the back of the net.”
Penner said he was happy for Shannon. The two were linemates at the Ducks’ minor-league affiliate in Portland, Maine, for much of last season.
Shannon assisted on Penner’s tying goal late in the third.
“I played with him last year and I know what he’s capable of,” Penner said. “I think that now he’s got the monkey off his back. Once you get that first one, it takes a bit more of the pressure off and you feel more confident. Confidence is everything at this level.”
Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle wouldn’t say whether Shannon was close to being replaced.
“This is a big step for a young player,” Carlyle said. “The thing we ask of him is to be sound defensively. The plus-minus figure would indicate that it’s not. But two minuses that he got were because of poor changes by individuals. I blame the other player. But that doesn’t show in the statistics.”
The ice surface at the Honda Center isn’t highly regarded in NHL circles, but Staples Center didn’t fare well in some eyes. With an afternoon game on a 90-degree day outside, it was hard to tell whether both teams were playing with a puck or a rubber ball.
“It wasn’t the best ice I’ve played on,” Penner said. “Maybe they’ve had a lot of events here. But the puck was bouncing a lot.”
-- Eric Stephens
Kings center Anze Kopitar spun to the left, pushed toward the net and once again left Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger looking like a pylon. Next step, leaving goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere frozen to the ice.
Kopitar slipped a slick pass across the crease to Lubomir Visnovsky, who seemed so stunned that he nearly missed the puck on the Kings’ first goal Sunday. All this came in a matter of seconds.
Just another day at the office for Kopitar, a 19-year-old rookie. He had two assists, giving him 11 points this season, tops among rookies. He is the only rookie to lead his team in scoring.
Yet, this is not so much about points.
“I’m proud I can be out there for 20 minutes each game,” Kopitar said. “It means I have played well enough to deserve that. This is what I was hoping for.”
The Kings are hoping for even more, as Kopitar was cheered louder than any other Kings’ player during the shootout. He missed his try but remains a marketing bonanza for the future.
Kings Coach Marc Crawford was asked about giving up the lead with five minutes left in Sunday’s game.
“It was more than five minutes,” Crawford snapped back.
He was right. It was with 5 minutes 50 seconds.
-- Chris Foster
at Colorado, 5, FSNW
Site -- Pepsi Center.
Radio -- 1150.
Records -- Kings 3-4-2, Avalanches 3-3-2.
Record vs. Avalanche (2005-06) -- 3-1.
Update -- The Avalanche has tumbled from the elite, as an 8-5 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday demonstrated. It was the most goals given up in a game since the team moved from Quebec before the 1995-96 season.