The Kings’ Marian Gaborik has had a far more enjoyable playoff experience against the Ducks than in his previous encounter.
Gaborik, a right wing, has three goals and three assists in helping the Kings to a 2-1 Western Conference semifinal series lead. That’s three more goals and three more assists than he had for Minnesota in 2003, when the Ducks swept the Wild in the conference finals.
His offensive presence has been a welcome addition for the guy skating next to him.
“He is a constant threat, with his shooting ability and his scoring ability,” center Anze Kopitar said. “Every time he comes into the offensive zone, everybody pays attention to him. Maybe that gives me a few more inches to work with.”
With those extra inches, Kopitar has recorded a postseason-best 15 points (four goals, 11 assists), and at least a point in all 10 playoff games. Gaborik has six goals, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin for the most in the playoffs.
“At the end of the game, getting the puck to him somewhere in the slot is always a good option,” Kopitar said.
The Kings acquired the 32-year old Gaborik from Columbus at the March 5 trade deadline.
Coach Darryl Sutter then waited to see if there was a profit in the deal.
“There is always the concern, when you get a guy late in the year, ‘How is he is going to fit in?’” Sutter said. “A lot of times he doesn’t.”
Gaborik didn’t a year ago, when Columbus brought him in from the New York Rangers late in the season. He had three goals and eight assists in 19 games.
“You can have a big name and a big career, but it can be hard to find a fit somewhere,” Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said after trading Gaborik to the Kings.
The fit with Kopitar has been much better.
“We got put together right away,” Kopitar said. “You try to develop as fast as you can.”
Gaborik had five goals and 16 points in 19 regular-season games with the Kings.
He has upped his game in the series against the Ducks. Gaborik’s goal with seven seconds left in regulation tied Game 1. His encore was the game-winner in the Kings’ 3-2 overtime victory.
“We were counting on Gabby to do that,” Sutter said. “It’s why we got him.”
Who’s better, who’s best?
Sutter called the Kings’ 3-2 loss in Game 3 his team’s “best game” of the series. He based that on “all the data we looked at.”
“There was a wealth of knowledge that we see that tells us how well we played,” Sutter said.
“Puck possession, faceoffs, hits, things like that,” Sutter said.
OK, that was three. But the bottom line, Sutter said, was, “We were dominant in the stats last night. I don’t know how we didn’t win.”
Of the Kings’ 34 playoff goals, 15 have come in the third period or overtime. They have 14 third-period goals, with five coming in the last minute of regulation — four into an empty net to clinch victories and one to force overtime.
That finishing kick propelled the Kings through their six-game winning streak. They had an 11-2 edge in third-period and overtime goals during that run.
“It’s not like we’re planning to do that,” Kopitar said. “We just stick to our game plan. Maybe we’re grinding it out and wearing teams down.”
The Kings promoted Michael Futa from co-director of amateur scouting to vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel. Futa, who had drawn interest from other teams seeking front-office hires, is credited with helping draft and develop the many home-grown players in the Kings’ lineup and their prospects.