Can the Kings be as good when the puck drops Oct. 9 as they were Tuesday in an 8-3 exhibition rout of the Ducks at Staples Center?
Quite possibly. They scored four times on the power play, killed off five disadvantages and got balanced scoring. Anze Kopitar had four assists, defenseman Jack Johnson had two goals and an assist and five players each recorded a goal and an assist as the Kings (2-1-1) rolled past the Ducks (2-3) with shockingly little resistance.
“I don’t think that was expected from any of us or any of you guys,” Kopitar said to the reporters who sought an explanation for this sudden scoring burst.
Can the Ducks be as bad defensively this season as they were Tuesday in refusing to take the body and abandoning goaltender Curtis McElhinney to face 42 shots, including 23 in the first period?
Quite possibly. They knew their defense would sag after the retirement of Scott Niedermayer, who watched grimly from the press box Tuesday. But there was no excuse for even a pieced-together defense corps to struggle as much as that group did.
“You’d almost think we never practiced defensive zone coverage if you watched the game and the way we played in our zone tonight,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Kings scored two power-play goals in a span of 38 seconds in the first period, one with a two-man advantage and one with a five-on-four edge, and bombarded McElhinney to take a 4-0 lead after one period.
Corey Perry was sent off for slashing at 5:48 and Andy Sutton was penalized for delay of game 40 seconds later. The Kings capitalized quickly, with Dustin Brown tapping home a rebound at 7:32 and Wayne Simmonds banging home a rebound at 8:10 after Michal Handzus had stolen the puck.
Ryan Smyth made it 3-0 at 12:03 with a backhand from the right of the slot, and Johnson padded the lead to 4-0 at 17:32 with a low shot from about 15 feet inside the blue line that snaked past McElhinney.
The Ducks didn’t break through until the second period, when Todd Marchant wrapped the puck past Jonathan Quick and inside the post at 3:12.
The Princeton alumni society had a feisty meeting at 6:16 of the second period when Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth fought Ducks enforcer George Parros, who preceded him at the Ivy League school. Kings center Brayden Schenn and Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa renewed hostilities, too, tussling late in the third period three years after a bout they engaged in while playing in the Western Hockey League.
“He actually asked me after we got the two goals and said, ‘I’ll see you in the third period,’” Schenn said. “He asked me again with like three minutes left. I got pulled off and then I got back out there and he asked me again. . . . When the time comes about I’ll try not to back down.”
The Kings extended their lead to 5-1 at 12:20 of the second period when Brown carried the puck up the right side during a power play and passed to Handzus for a shot that McElhinney stopped but couldn’t control. Handzus poked the rebound into the net.
Both teams had a fair number of players in the lineup who will be in uniform on opening night — Oct. 8 at Detroit for the Ducks and Oct. 9 at Vancouver for the Kings.
Andrei Loktionov, vying for a spot on the Kings’ fourth line, took a pass-out from Smyth and rifled it past McElhinney at 8:41 of the third for his first preseason goal. Kyle Clifford, also in the mix for the fourth line, scored 19 seconds later, redirecting Simmonds’ pass. Dan Sexton and Marchant scored for the Ducks in the last three minutes.
“It’s preseason,” Kopitar said. “It’s one of those things when the ball starts rolling it’s hard to stop, especially with the lineup we had. But it’s good for us. We’ll take it. We did a lot of good stuff.”