Getting up off the mat took on two meanings for the Kings.
Frustrated and irritable from a string of losses, they were perfectly willing to take out those aggressions against the Ducks on Saturday night. But that came to a literal halt when Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa delivered a knockout blow to Andy Andreoff on the first punch of their opening-period tussle.
Andreoff never returned. But the Kings did.
Down a goal with 92 seconds remaining against the vulnerable and depleted Ducks, the Kings tied it on Dustin Brown’s goal with an extra attacker and won it 2-1 in a shootout in front of 18,230 fans at Staples Center.
Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis scored in the shootout, and Jonathan Quick allowed only a goal to Corey Perry in the extended session as the Kings ended a three-game losing streak.
“These are the type of games you need to find a way to win,” Brown said. “I thought we had a lot of really good looks. We just were not getting it in the net. I thought tonight was our best effort in terms of staying within our game plan throughout the game.”
Brown’s second-chance shot went in off Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Brown’s initial wraparound attempt was stopped by a sprawled Ducks goalie Ryan Miller, and Brown was left open to finish a play that began with Kopitar’s faceoff win against Antoine Vermette.
The comeback deflated what was a gutsy game by the Ducks, who lost leading scorer Rickard Rakell to a day-to-day upper-body injury, the team announced before the game, and were ready to win on Nick Ritchie’s first-period goal.
“It’s unfortunate,” Miller said. “I thought I could have ended it on Kopitar [in the third round of the shootout]. I missed my [skate] edge completely. I thought I did exactly what I wanted to do. Then I just didn’t execute the edgework.”
Bieksa’s knockout was the highlight of three opening-period fights as the teams wasted no time in renewing their hatred. The Kings’ Kurtis MacDermid started it off against Mike Liambas. Oscar Fantenberg got his first NHL fighting major in an unlikely and brief tussle with Andrew Cogliano, hardly known as a fighter.
The triage unit that is the Ducks forwards took yet another blow because of Rakell.
And their injury woes reached comic proportions in the first period when the Ducks went down to nine forwards with Cogliano and Liambas in the penalty box and Derek Grant briefly in the trainer’s room.
It was a pedestrian game for the first 40 minutes, but the third period resembled something closer to the highly spirited Nov. 7 matchup at Honda Center that was one of the NHL’s best games this season. Saturday was more reflective of two struggling teams on the back end of consecutive games.
The Kings were going nowhere with seven losses in eight games, due largely to what Kings coach John Stevens has referred to as “unforced errors” in their transition game and a disconnect between their defensemen and forwards.