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Ducks take fight out of Kings

Ducks take fight out of Kings
Ducks center Rickard Rakell, left, celebrates with teammate Antonie Vermette after Vermette scored a goal against the Kings in the second period. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

This time, Rickard Rakell didn't need to fight.

On Tuesday night, the talented Ducks forward stayed with what he does  best: score and set up goals. He made his long-delayed season debut a memorable one, helping lead the Ducks to a 4-0 win against the Kings at Staples Center with a goal and two assists.

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Rakell, who memorably fought then-Kings forward Kris Versteeg last season at Staples Center, had a season's worth of turmoil — a contract standoff, surgery and visa concerns — forcing him to miss the preseason and the first nine games of the regular season. His return neatly coincided with the first game of the season between the Kings and Ducks, the battle of Southern California.

On Tuesday morning, Rakell was teased about his previous impact moment in the Kings-Ducks rivalry when he stunned nearly everyone, including himself, with a rare fight and a decisive showing against Versteeg.

He was asked: Would he be beating up anyone else now that Versteeg had moved on?

"I have myself to worry about tonight," said Rakell, who signed a six-year, $22.8-million contract extension last month. "I'm just going to go in and play hockey."

He had been hoping to make an immediate impact.

"I'm happy that I did," Rakell said. "I just tried to find the timing throughout the game and I felt more comfortable the longer the game went on. I'm just hoping to build off this. ... I think I was at the right place at the right time."

Said Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle: "You saw his hands and his skill and his vision tonight, so we feel pretty fortunate to have that type of player on our side."

Rakell had plenty of assistance from his teammates. Ryan Kesler, dominant in the faceoff circle all night, added a power-play goal and an assist, as did Antoine Vermette.

Joseph Cramarossa scored his first NHL goal, making it 4-0 in the second period as his wraparound attempt went off two Kings, Nic Dowd and Alec Martinez.

One down note for the Ducks was the loss of youngster Nick Ritchie, who was shaken up by a second-period hit from Kings defenseman Tom Gilbert, and did not return.

The struggling Kings, who fell apart defensively in the second period, have not scored in three consecutive games, matching a dubious franchise mark, dating to January 1969.

Yes, 1969.

In the 1968-69 season, they tied St. Louis, 0-0; tied Oakland, 0-0; and lost 5-0 to St. Louis.

The last time they scored a goal this season was when Jeff Carter managed it in overtime against Nashville on Thursday.

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This time it was goalies Jake Allen (St. Louis), Corey Crawford (Chicago) and John Gibson (Ducks) shutting out the Kings in the three games.

Gibson made 30 saves, recording his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.

Speaking of goalies … the Kings have used four in the first 10 games of the season: Jonathan Quick, Jeff Zatkoff, Peter Budaj and Jack Campbell.

Campbell, whose only other NHL appearance came against the Ducks in 2013 when he was with the Dallas Stars, came on in relief of Budaj after two periods Tuesday.

Budaj gave up four goals on 16 shots, enduring a rough stretch in the second period in which he allowed goals on the Ducks' 10th, 11th and 13th shots of the game.

"He wasn't very good," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of Budaj.

"You look at the shots and scoring chances. He wasn't very good. That's clear. I don't pull goalies very often, but they're expected to make some saves. When they score with [30 seconds] left in the first period that's deflating to your hockey club."

Quick was hurt in the first period of the season opener at San Jose.

Zatkoff injured his groin in a morning skate on Oct. 22 and was put on injured reserve.

He skated on Tuesday morning for the first time since the injury, finally taking a step in the right direction.

Zatkoff said that the injury happened when he got "caught in an awkward spot," and that his hip popped too, saying: "It gave me kind of a panic attack."

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