Kings take control of Pacific Division fate with 2-1 win over Ducks

Kings right wing Kris Versteeg celebrates along with teammate Brayden McNabb after scoring against the Ducks in the second period.

Kings right wing Kris Versteeg celebrates along with teammate Brayden McNabb after scoring against the Ducks in the second period.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Kings have the division title in their hands … well, their hockey gloves.

None of this scoreboard watching, and waiting out late-night results. None of this studying of the tiebreakers and having to interpret the mysterious, shadowy ROW for the casual fan.

If the Kings win their regular-season finale, they will be the Pacific Division champions. They moved into that position with a tight 2-1 victory over the Ducks on Thursday night at Staples Center, sparked by goals 1 minute 33 seconds apart by Milan Lucic and Kris Versteeg in the second period.

The Kings have 101 points in 81 games, and the Ducks are second in the division with 99 points in 80 games. That game in hand won’t matter if the Kings defeat the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.


If the Kings and the Ducks finish with the same number of points, the Kings possess the first tiebreaker — the ROW, regulation and overtime wins.

“That’s what you want,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “You don’t want to be relying on other teams to beat other teams. We’ve relied on other teams before, and it didn’t go so well for us. This year, we were really focused on determining our own destiny.”

One bit of clarity emerged in the third period. With San Jose’s loss to Winnipeg, the Kings and the Ducks have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The biggest game of the season — so far — was playoff lite. That’s not a slight, but there were too many regulars missing, on both sides, leading to a lack of sharpness. The Ducks mustered 12 shots on goal through two periods.

Still, there were many moments of verve and no shortage of passion in a compelling rivalry game as Kings goalie Jonathan Quick won his 40th game of the season, a career high and Kings record. There was a savvy goal-saving moment by Doughty early in the second when the Ducks were on the power play.

The Kings’ fourth line — Kyle Clifford-Andy Andreoff-Versteeg — may have been their best, playing a hard-nosed physical game.

Versteeg, showing his goal-scorer’s hands, had the game-winner, at 2:01 of the second period, deflecting defenseman Brayden McNabb’s shot off the crossbar and patiently and skillfully tapping it in at the left post, beating Ducks goalie John Gibson.

Versteeg had the tying goal at Calgary on Tuesday late in regulation, setting the stage for Jeff Carter’s winner in overtime. He has four goals in 13 games with the Kings since joining them just before the trade deadline, from Carolina

Lucic had tied it at 1-1, scoring his 20th of the season, 28 seconds into the second period, after the Ducks had the territorial edge in the first period and 1-0 lead, via Ryan Kesler’s goal, four-on-four, at 16:11.

Did the Ducks feel a step behind?

“It wasn’t as clean as we would have liked it to be,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. “Against a team like that that’s extremely physical and creates offense from their forecheck, you have to manage the puck or you’re going to be scrambling all night, and that was kind of the theme tonight.”

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter felt it turned early in the second period.

“There’s momentum changes, shifts during games, and I think the goal early in the second brought us back,” Sutter said. “We were playing the right way but we just hadn’t scored yet.”

Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter: @reallisa