The Kings and Ducks faced off in the second edition of the Freeway Face-Off at STAPLES Center Monday night. The first installment saw the Ducks dominate both Kings goaltenders in a blow out 7-4 victory. The Kings have played considerably better in the last week, but the Ducks were sitting on a 6 game winning streak heading into the matchup. Ultimately the Kings played the 10 best minutes of hockey they played since the 2012 playoffs, and won their 4th game in a row 5-2.
The rivalry game, heavily charged with the Ducks hot start and Kings Stanley Cup victory, figured to be a highly physical if not downright ugly affair. The Kings were the more physical team, but the Ducks were the more dangerous team early on, and on the board first. The Kings had only 3 quality chances by the end of a scoreless first period. Just 13 seconds into the 2nd period, Andrew Cogliani put the Ducks on the board. Jordan Nolan got the Kings re-focused when he fought Sheldon Souray early in the 2nd period, the only scrap in the game. The Kings answered quickly when Dustin Penner poked a stretch pass past Viktor Fasth for his first goal of the year.
The Ducks were the beneficiaries of some phantom penalties as Dustin Brown and Dwight King were each separately sent to the box. On the Brown power play granted for tripping in the offensive zone, the Ducks got their second goal. The puck trickled past a wide open goal, and Rob Scuderi much too softly shuffled the puck away from the crease and onto Saku Koivu’s stick who hammered home. The Ducks were dangerous on the power-play. A half dozen times the puck bounced across the front of the net while Quick was still overplaying where the puck previously was on the opposite side of the ice.
The game turned when the Kings got back to what they did and do best, and finally the Captain lead them there. Brown took a pass from Kopitar up the ice, and finally decided to put the puck on net. When he, and the Kings, started to do just that, their feet picked up, their forecheck was dominant, and they moved the puck out of their own zone with ease. Brown’s wrister through traffic straight up beat Fasth over his glove hand, off the crossbar, straight down, and then bounced across the goal line.
The Kings fans played their best 5-10 minutes of hockey of the season early in the 3rd period, and Kings fans showed what kind of fans they are too. They bucked the bad wrap LA fans get for not knowing or caring what is going on the ice or field, and leaving early and arriving late. The Kings fans were their loudest of the season not when Slava Voynov tied the game up on a slapper near the right circle. Or when Jake Muzzin looked off the whole Ducks roster on a fake pass before blasting a wrister past Fasth’s glove hand on the Kings first powerplay. But the accumulation of hard work, chances, and positive forechecking over several minutes elicited the loudest cheer that Kings fans showed all year. Everyone got to their feet to show their appreciation, and recognition, of the type of hockey the Kings were playing against the hot Ducks team. Jeff Carter got his 10th goal of the season on an empty net.
The Kings and Ducks don’t face each other again until April.