Kings take control of Pacific Division fate with 2-1 win over Ducks
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.
“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.
Ducks goalie John Gibson makes a save against Kings center Vincent Lecavalier during the third period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings right wing Dustin Brown and Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler fight for control of the puck during the third period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings left wing Tanner Pearson tries to work the puck around the defense of the Ducks during the third period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) knocks the puck away from the goal before Ducks center Mike Santorelli can get to it during the second period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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)
Ducks forward Jamie McGinn tries to clear the puck as teammate Corey Perry (10) and Kings defensemen Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty converge along the board during the second period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looks to make a save as Ducks right wing Chris Stewart tries to redirect a shot during the second period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks center Ryan Garbutt falls to the ice after getting tangled with Kings left wing Andy Andreoff during the second period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings right wing Dustin Brown drives into the crease against Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm as goalie John Gibson prepares for a shot during the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kings right wing Dustin Brown knocks Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm into goalie John Gibson during the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks goalie John Gibson and defenseman Hampus Lindholm watch along with Kings left wing Tanner Pearson as the puck sails wide of the goal during the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks center Ryan Kesler is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Kings in the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks goalie John Gibson makes a glove save against the Kings during the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler tries to knock the puck away from Kings center Anze Kopitar during the first period.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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.
“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
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