Kings rewarded in win over Ducks
So the Kings will not go winless, though the Ducks might be 0-82 if they continue parading to the penalty box and giving opponents opportunities that even scoring-challenged teams such as the Kings can’t miss.
Both teams were winless when they met Tuesday at Staples Center, but the Kings were in worse shape. They had scored only once in their first two games and were reeling after losing cornerstone defenseman Jack Johnson to a shoulder injury that put him under the knife Tuesday and might idle him until after the All-Star break.
When the Ducks scored on two of their first three shots, the surprisingly sparse but loudly loyal crowd was ready to turn on its heroes.
Fear not. The Ducks reverted to being their penalty-prone selves and the Kings, banding together behind a reconfigured defense and a close-to-game-shape Patrick O’Sullivan, rallied for a 6-3 victory that eased the pain of Johnson’s absence and gave Coach Terry Murray his first triumph behind the Kings’ bench.
The Kings needed this, and badly, to affirm that what they have been doing this season was right even if the rewards were slower in coming than they might have liked.
“It’s still a game-to-game thing that we’re making progress and getting better,” said defenseman Tom Preissing, who scored the Kings’ fifth goal and third power-play strike of the evening with a low shot from the top of the right circle.
“With the amount of talent that we have, if we continue to get better we’re going to win games and surprise some teams.”
Wayne Simmonds scored his first NHL goal, O’Sullivan looked sharp in scoring his first goal since his last-minute contract signing last week, and Jarret Stoll capitalized on a five-on-three advantage late in the second period to score his first goal as a King and obliterate an early 2-0 Ducks lead.
Matt Moulson, who lost a goal Sunday when a video review determined he had kicked the puck in, scored one that stood to give the Kings a 4-2 lead 51 seconds into the third period, taking a perfect pass from Dustin Brown and lifting it over the left shoulder of Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Preissing extended the lead at 10:52 of the third period. The Ducks ended the Kings’ spree at five straight goals when Teemu Selanne scored on a semi-breakaway, but the Kings made it an even half a dozen when Alexander Frolov scored into an empty net with 1:12 left.
Even though poised puckhandler Drew Doughty sat out the third period because of what a club official called flu-like symptoms, Kings defensemen contributed a goal and three assists and a number of lusty hits that delighted the announced crowd of 14,451.
It should not be overlooked that losing Johnson didn’t mean the Kings had lost their direction, though they know they will miss him over the long haul.
“In a selfish way we’d love to have Jack back. We’re looking forward to having him back,” said Sean O’Donnell, who played 22:03, assisted on Simmonds’ goal and was a solid plus-2 against his former Ducks teammates. “In the meantime we’re going to maybe get extra situations and extra ice times and guys have to take it on and rise to the occasion.
“These are the hands we’ve been dealt and we have to step up, try to make a positive thing out of it and see what happens.”
Little went right Tuesday for the Ducks, who are 0-3 and will face the swift-skating Edmonton Oilers tonight at the Honda Center.
Their offense Tuesday came from fourth-line center Brian Sutherby at 1:46 of the first period, a shot from the left circle by third-liner Todd Marchant at 7:12 of the first and the goal by Selanne with 4:29 left in the third period.
Selanne’s goal was the first by one of the Ducks’ top six forwards this season. The top line of Travis Moen, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry was relatively quiet, as was the line of Chris Kunitz, Brendan Morrison and Selanne.
The Ducks’ vaunted defense wasn’t impressive either. Coach Randy Carlyle made a change by benching the struggling Kent Huskins and substituting Nathan McIver, but that had no impact.
“We’ve got to get every member of our hockey club going,” Carlyle said. “We can’t point to one area where I’d say we’ve been satisfied with ourselves.
“I know these guys have got it in them. We’ve worked hard before.”
It was the Kings who worked harder Tuesday to overcome adversity.
“We’ve got guys competing for each other, sticking up for each other, blocking shots -- that’s going to make a difference for our team,” O’Sullivan said.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people, to be honest.”
Helene Elliott can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Elliott, go to latimes.com/elliott.