With the sound of a foghorn, all the pressure inside Honda Center was alleviated:
Exultation from Ducks fans. Disappointment from Kings fans.
It had to end that way in the biggest regular season game between the teams, given what was on the line. They took their irresistible-force-versus-immovable-object dynamic to another level for 60 minutes before Rickard Rakell finished it with 19 seconds left in overtime for a 2-1 Ducks win Friday.
Rakell got the puck on the right side, stickhandled in front of Alec Martinez and released a shot that sent the standing-room only crowd of 17,473 fans into different emotions.
“I just saw that there was not much time left, so I started to build speed, then tried to get the shot through,” Rakell said of his 32nd goal. “It was a good feeling to see the puck go in.”
The Ducks showed urgency late to reach that good feeling. The extra standings point put them in the first wild card spot with four games remaining.
“We showed some resiliency, but so did they,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “This is typical L.A.-Anaheim game. It could have went either way. We were fortunate enough to find one in overtime.”
Indeed, the Kings nearly escaped with the regulation win in the final 40 seconds, but John Gibson thwarted Adrian Kempe and Tanner Pearson. The Kings played on consecutive nights and acknowledged fatigue. Still, the chance was there.
“We were confident that we could win that game going into the third,” Drew Doughty said. “We didn’t play good enough for the full 60 minutes to win a hockey game tonight. In order to beat that team, you have to play a lot better.”
It was the first time since the Ducks’ inception in 1993-94 that both teams were within two points of a playoff spot this deep into the season. And it delivered the intensity of a playoff game as the arena expanded and contracted with equal sways of Kings and Ducks energy.
There were the usual post-whistle flare-ups. Kyle Clifford was leveled by Josh Manson. In between, Jonathan Quick was superb and ran his shutout streak to nearly six periods until the Ducks broke through on Nick Ritchie’s goal with three minutes, five seconds left in the second period.
Ritchie’s backhand swat off Francois Beauchemin’s rebound rewarded pressure that kept building in the Kings’ end in the latter half of the period.
Doughty emerged with the only goal of the opening period. Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler collided, which gave Doughty time to skate to the net and bank a shot in with Pearson blocking Gibson’s view. Anze Kopitar’s assist made him the first Kings player to reach 90 points in a season since Wayne Gretzky in 1993-94.
Quick otherwise managed the Kings through the most sustained pressure they’ve faced in some time. He stopped all 16 shots in the first period, from all angles, including Rakell’s consecutive attempts after a deke against Doughty.
The Kings were without top-line left wing Alex Iafallo because of an upper-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Recent Ducks signee Troy Terry was scratched because of injury, but it was precautionary, a team official said.
But the Ducks weren’t concerned with personnel.
“It was huge,” Rakell said. “We need every point we can get.”
The Kings signed defenseman Daniel Brickley to a two-year entry-level contract, the first year of which will be used by joining the team. Brickley is not expected to play in any game of consequence, though, this season. … The Kings also signed forward Sheldon Rempal to a two-year entry-level deal. He was a 23-goal scorer for Clarkson. …
The Kings will play a preseason game in Salt Lake City on Sept. 24. The game against the Vancouver Canucks will be at Vivint Smart Arena.