LOS ANGELES – The fight for the Pacific Division lead got all too real between the Ducks and Kings on Saturday afternoon and the heat from a combative first few minutes could have turned the Staples Center ice surface into a 200-foot pond.
But after 60 minutes, the result was the same as it has been against the Kings and against anyone. The Ducks – now the first-place Ducks – simply won.
Ryan Kesler, David Perron and Jakob Silfverberg each scored goals and the Ducks never trailed in defeating the Kings for third straight time this season, a 3-2 victory that gave them a franchise record with 11 straight wins.
Much as they downplay the significance, the Ducks (37-19-8) can’t ignore what they’ve done since beating Chicago in overtime Feb. 13. Or what they’ve essentially done for more than two months. Going 18-1-1 and 25-4-2 has put them in a spot that once seemed unimaginable.
“It’s always a good thing to set new records,” Silfverberg said. “But during the season, it’s not something that you focus too much on. We’re just trying to win the hockey games and we’ve been doing that lately.
“But obviously if you set a record, you’ve been doing something good.”
In front of a sellout crowd of 18,230, the Ducks got 32 saves from Frederik Andersen and used their searing power play to give Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau his 400th NHL coaching victory. Boudreau is the quickest to reach that mark.
“I must have had good teams,” Boudreau quipped. “I was lucky in Washington and lucky to have a great team here.”
After a rock ’em, sock ’em tense first period that saw the teams combine for 68 penalty minutes, the rivals got to playing hockey and scoring. Kesler started it with a wrist shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (19 saves) as Andrew Cogliano bore down on him.
Milan Lucic pulled the Kings into a tie as power plays became the story. Lucic scored his 15th on a second effort after his initial shot managed to squeeze through Andersen’s pads.
But the Ducks took a 2-1 lead into the third, thanks to David Perron continuing to be an offensive spark plug since his mid-January arrival. Perron got his 12th goal of the season – and eighth with the Ducks – with a deflection of Cam Fowler’s shot with the man advantage.
Silfverberg then made it 3-1 when Rickard Rakell’s shot glanced off him as he provided an effective screen of Quick. Drew Doughty did boost his Norris Trophy campaign further with a power-play strike, but they never got another equalizer.
“You can always execute better than we did, but it was a hard-fought game with a lot of emotions, especially early obviously,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “We played a decent game but it wasn’t enough. We need to be better and we know we can be better.”
There isn’t any love lost between the teams that sit just 30 miles apart. Some genuine hate erupted near the seven-minute mark of the opening period.
Kings winger Kyle Clifford and Ducks star Corey Perry traded shoves and punches but as the two agitators were separated, fights broke out between Rakell and Kings forward Kris Versteeg and Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and Kings fourth-liner Andy Andreoff.
It was Rakell’s first NHL fight and the center handled Versteeg in a one-sided scrap. Meanwhile, Bieksa and Andreoff were given game misconducts for apparently engaging in their bout as the Rakell-Versteeg fight began.
But the Ducks handled being shorthanded on the blue line like any other obstacle that’s popped up since their post-Christmas paradigm shift.
“It’s fun,” Andersen said. “We’re more focused on the process though. Wins are going to come from playing well.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com