It might only be November, but it felt like springtime at Honda Center.
In the first meeting of the season between the Ducks and Kings, the Southern California clubs renewed their rivalry in a chippy, physical game Tuesday that resembled a playoff affair.
And it was the Kings who rallied from a 3-1 deficit on the road with a 4-3 overtime victory on Nick Shore’s goal before 16,637 at Honda Center.
“There’s really no quit in here,” said Kings captain Anze Kopitar, who momentarily exited the contest in the third period after concussion spotters ushered him to the locker room. “We’re definitely not feeling sorry for ourselves.
“We get down two goals early, but it seemed like there was a sense of calmness on the bench. Nobody panicked. Nobody was running around like a maniac. We kept our cool, kept our composure and started plugging away.”
The Kings thought they broke the 3-3 stalemate late in the third, but Drew Doughty was offside. Moments later, another would-be go-ahead goal was nullified when John Gibson’s mask fell off. He left the game after he was whacked in the naked head and promptly replaced by Ryan Miller.
The starting goaltender is now in the league’s concussion protocol, so Miller could draw his first start at home Thursday when the Ducks host his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.
Anaheim saw a parade of players enter the penalty box (21 penalty minutes), but a beautiful Miller kick save in the waning minutes killed off another penalty and ensured the Ducks escaped with at least a point.
Still, the losing skid was extended to four games in the Ducks’ first nationally televised game of the season.
“We need to play within the new rules,” Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said, “but again, the emotions got high in the third and … we want to play physical at the same time. So we’ll take penalties but we want to limit those for sure.”
Emotions ran high from the opening puck drop. Corey Perry scrapped with Jonathan Quick in a second-period fracas. Ondrej Kase left the game in the first period (upper-body injury) and didn’t return after absorbing an impactful open-ice hit from Kurtis MacDermid, who was ejected for blatant interference.
The Ducks didn’t capitalize on the five-minute power play, nor the four-minute man-advantage later in the game. They didn’t convert on any such chance (11:05 in power-play time) as the No. 30-ranked unit continues to falter.
The big hits continued, with Kings defenseman Alec Martinez absorbing two such checks in the span of seconds from two different Ducks, and then a few shifts later, a nasty hit along the bench sent him to the locker room (he later returned).
The Kings continued to chase and aggressively press on the forecheck, and found goals from rookie Adrian Kempe and Dustin Brown (power play) to tie it up. Then in the extra period, it was Shore who sealed the game and earned the Kings a league-best 26th overtime win since the three-on-three format was introduced in 2015.
“The penalty kill was really taxed with the five-minute major and the four-minute [minor], but at the end of the day, I thought our PK did a really good job and I thought our power play scored a huge goal,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Certainly gratifying that the guys just stuck with it. There’s lots of times where we could have thought that it wasn’t our night.”
It’s been the Kings’ night most times this season. They’re now only one point (11-2-2, 24 points) behind the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues.
Sooner or later, it might be the night for the injury-riddled Ducks, who fell to 6-6-3. But not this evening, though with a physical effort in a playoff-type atmosphere, it could be the springboard they’re looking for.