Kings turn the tables on Ducks
The latest installment in the periodic Kings-Ducks dust-up Sunday was all about returning the favor.
Ducks winger Chris Kunitz knocked the Kings’ Lubomir Visnovsky silly with a vicious open-ice hit in the third period, a day after putting Mattias Norstrom out for the rematch with a clean hit in Saturday’s game that left the Kings’ captain with a strained knee.
Visnovsky would get the final shot in a two-day home-and-home set that took both teams to the limit.
The Kings defenseman retaliated with the decisive goal in a 4-3 shootout victory that gave a team with little left to play for a small measure of satisfaction in upending the Pacific Division-leading Ducks at the Honda Center.
All five meetings involving the rivals have been decided by one goal, and three have gone past overtime. Little would change Sunday after the Ducks won a 3-2 game less than 24 hours before on Corey Perry’s shootout-deciding goal.
“It’s always a good game against them,” said Ducks forward Teemu Selanne, whose third-period goal gave him a club-record 301 to surpass former captain Paul Kariya. “I’m surprised they are where they are in the standings. I think they have a good team.”
The Kings (20-31-10) may be fooling Selanne, but they pushed the Ducks to the brink on consecutive nights. They got goals from Visnovsky, Michael Cammalleri and Derek Armstrong to offset those by Selanne, Chris Kunitz and Ryan Getzlaf.
Both teams scored twice in the first five rounds of the shootout. After Rob Niedermayer was turned away by the Kings’ Sean Burke in round six, Visnovsky slipped a wrist shot between the legs of Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“I didn’t have a plan,” Visnovsky said. “I just went up the ice and [faked a shot]. The goalie moved, so I waited and saw the five-hole open. I’ve practiced that a lot. I’ve even had it go in a couple times.”
Visnovsky, one of the building blocks of a future the Kings have been reduced to setting their sights on, had a power-play goal in the first period and an assist on Cammalleri’s power-play goal while spending much of the game being a target.
Midway through the third, Kunitz caught him with a shoulder that sent Visnovsky flying, leaving him dazed.
“It was apropos that Vish scored the winner,” Kings Coach Marc Crawford said. “He took a really hard hit there. He showed he has a lot of determination.
“That happens a lot of times. Teams go after guys who are good players. We do the same thing, go after guys like Selanne and guys who can be dangerous to you out there.”
Said Visnovsky: “That was a big hit and I never saw him. I didn’t see anything. I was just dizzy.”
The Ducks were far more concerned about the welfare of their star defenseman Chris Pronger, who gave them a major scare at the 48-second mark of overtime.
The announced standing-room-only crowd of 17,363 was silenced when Pronger went down in a heap after being hit by a slap shot from Visnovsky. Pronger rose to his feet immediately and went to the dressing room under his own power.
Pronger was talking with teammates afterward though he didn’t make himself available for interviews.
“He got it in the chin, but I think the majority of the puck got him in the throat so we’re fortunate in that respect,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said.
“It didn’t do as much damage as we thought [it would]. Of course, it looked pretty awful when you saw him holding his face.”
Selanne passed Kariya, his good friend and former teammate, when he beat Burke with a wrist shot in the first minute of the third.
While he called it a special goal, Selanne was more focused on the Ducks’ improved play.
“I’m not worried that we lost a point,” he said. “I’m very happy with how we played. When you have over 40 shots and you get double the amount of scoring chances as the team we played, you know you have done some good things.”