Ryan Kesler bit down on his lip, delivering an unmistakable look of determination Friday as his slumping Ducks fell two goals behind the surging Kings.
“We just kept with it. Being down didn’t deter us from our main goal of winning the game,” Kesler said. “We played well all game and got rewarded in the end.”
Riding the momentum of a Kesler goal early in the third period, Anaheim repeated a recent trend with a blitz of four goals in the final 20 minutes, beating the Kings, 4-2, at Honda Center, and improving to 3-1 this season against their bitter rivals, who eliminated them from the playoffs last spring.
Kesler’s goal ended a scoring drought of more than 116 minutes for the Pacific Division-leading Ducks (39-17-7), and third-line forward Emerson Etem followed 90 seconds later with a tying score.
Then, with 8:39 left in regulation, Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf flipped a high pass that fell to Corey Perry, the right wing finishing for his 25th goal, then adding another into an empty net to ice the outcome.
“That was the game plan we set out with, didn’t get discouraged, we stuck with it,” Perry said after the Ducks out-hit the Kings, 52-25 and handed the visitors their second loss in a row after eight consecutive victories. “We’re a big physical team. Eventually, it’s going to break. We just need that one little spark.”
The Ducks are relishing the third period of late, and have now scored 13 final-period goals in the last five games.
“We just gave up too much,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “They had a press going and we didn’t respond to it. It’s unacceptable on our part to blow that lead.
“We got ourselves in a position where we’re back in the hunt. Now, we can’t let our foot off the gas.”
The Ducks were visibly dedicated to hitting, added in some crisp passes and took the first seven shots of the second period, racking up 23 shots through the first two periods after managing 25 total in each of the two games before Friday.
But they couldn’t convert.
And so, 10:39 into the second period, Anaheim looked up at the scoreboard and saw a 2-0 deficit.
The Kings’ first shot of the second was a blue-line launch that found net from defenseman Brayden McNabb, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 26, 2011.
It might’ve been worse, but Gibson denied Kings’ goal leader Jeff Carter one-on-one late in the second, then watched Justin Williams strike the post to the goalie’s left.
“I don’t think we were frustrated,” Kesler said. “We were focused.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau had said with the anticipated hard-checking effort he sought and the way the Kings have been playing, the game would be a “race to two” goals.
The Kings struck first.
Center Trevor Lewis swarmed from the boards to the net and squeezed a shot under Gibson 15:02 into the first period.
The Ducks out-hit the Kings, 24-13, in the first, but the Kings (29-20-12) blocked eight shots to continue the commitment that had limited opponents to one goal or fewer in five of six games before Friday.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have scored only twice in the first two periods of the past five games. Now, they boast five wins after being down by two goals in the third, and they’ve accomplished the feat twice against the Kings.
“Obviously, we knew how few goals they’ve been giving up,” Kesler said. “We could’ve been sulking, but we were upbeat and definitely took it to them.”