Three Kings beat Ryan’s three of a kind
The Kings have solidified their defense and -- miracle of miracles -- seem to have found a goaltender capable of stopping the puck, but they’ve struggled to accomplish much at the other end of the ice.
Their scoring futility threatened to negate their progress and made it imperative for Anze Kopitar, their first-line center on paper if not by deed, to do something to end those woes.
It was also time for Dustin Brown, their captain, to put some goals alongside his prodigious hit totals, and for winger Alexander Frolov to be an impact player more than occasionally.
All three made their presence known Thursday in the Kings’ 4-3 victory over the Ducks in front of a lively crowd at Staples Center, Frolov by capping it with the decisive goal in the third period after the Ducks -- surprise! -- took a bad penalty for having too many men on the ice.
It took tremendous efforts by Kopitar, Brown, Frolov and everyone else in purple and white to overcome the one-man show staged by Ducks rookie Bobby Ryan, who erased the Kings’ 3-0 lead by scoring his first career hat trick in a span of 2 minutes 21 seconds.
That set a club record for the fastest hat trick and impressed the Kings, but it didn’t faze them.
“We knew we were capable of winning this game and we played a really good solid team game,” said Frolov, who connected on a short wrister after Teddy Purcell’s long shot had caromed in front of the net. “We just didn’t stop and kept working and scored a huge goal.
“Obviously, we gave up a few goals and it was kind of an even game in the third period, but we didn’t stop.”
The game was even only because Ryan’s stellar performance helped balance out a shaky effort by Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- one that was far from his first.
Giguere, voted the starter for the West All-Star team, gave up a long wrist shot by Brown at 19:54 of the first period and was pulled after he was beaten by Wayne Simmonds’ 45-foot snap shot 37 seconds into the second, the 10th shot he faced. He was replaced by Jonas Hiller, the winning goalie in the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Kings at Anaheim on Tuesday.
“The puck, in my mind, should not go in from those angles on the stick side on both goals,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said, “so I made the decision.”
Ryan launched the Ducks’ comeback by beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to the short side for a power-play goal at 19:14 of the second period.
He continued it 16 seconds into the third period by tapping in the rebound of a shot by Ryan Carter that had trickled behind Quick. Ryan finished the first of what surely will be many such nights by making a spectacular spinning move around the Kings’ Peter Harrold before drawing Quick down and nudging the puck past the helpless goaltender at 1:35.
Quick faulted himself on the first goal but credited Ryan for taking a good shot. He blamed himself on Ryan’s second goal but had nothing but respect for the third. “Just a great move,” Quick said.
Not a great result for the Ducks, who continue to lurch through the season with no clear direction and more holes becoming evident.
A victory would have put them a season-high seven games over .500. Instead, they were left to worry about the slumping Giguere and ponder another erratic effort marred by a sluggish first period in which they took merely three shots.
Their comeback provided limited consolation because it was undermined by their stubborn refusal to stop taking costly penalties.
“It’s tough to have a good night for yourself on a team’s bad one,” said Ryan, whose feat was saluted by about a dozen hats tossed onto the ice by Ducks fans. “I think we got behind the eight-ball too early.
“The other team did a good job of shutting us down on the power play. We certainly didn’t take advantage of all the chances we had.”
The Kings took advantage of their scoring chances, a rare sight for this goal-challenged team. Brown’s goal was his first in seven games. Kopitar’s goal at 8:50 of the second period, the conversion of his own shot, was his first goal in 11 games, since Dec. 13 against Minnesota. Frolov increased his team-leading total to 17 but it was his first game-winner.
“It’s a power play and it’s an even game,” Frolov said, “and we knew we were playing great and we deserved to win. We just have to put pucks in the net and score a big goal on a power play.”
If it were that simple, the Kings would do it every game. If playing with discipline and effort were simple, the Ducks would do that every game too. They don’t. And for each team, the season will turn on those hard facts.