Between the 20-year-old goalie with 39 saves and the 21-year-old forward with two goals, Teemu Selanne wasn’t sure which youngster deserved the most credit for propelling the Anaheim Ducks’ veterans to the brink of the Western Conference finals.
Selanne is only certain the Ducks’ youth movement is happening at an ideal time for their Stanley Cup hopes.
John Gibson was outstanding in his second career playoff start, and Devante Smith-Pelly scored two goals 1:23 apart in the second period of the Ducks’ 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 on Monday night, putting Anaheim up 3-2 in the second-round series.
Selanne is older than Gibson and Smith-Pelly combined, but the Finnish Flash knows the kids are why the Ducks are in position to finish off their Southern California rivals in Game 6 on Wednesday after a raucous meeting at Honda Center.
"They answered the bell again," said Selanne, who had a sublime assist on Smith-Pelly’s first goal. "Devo has all the tools. Gibby is rock-solid. They’re pretty special players, and they both took care of it for us tonight. You need special contributions from everybody to do what we’re trying to do."
Nick Bonino and Jakob Silfverberg also scored for the Ducks, who jumped out to a three-goal lead in the second period and hung on behind their rookie goalie, earning the first home victory by either team in the series.
Smith-Pelly is the Ducks’ unlikely leader with five postseason goals after a superbly energetic effort in Game 5. He has three goals in the past two games, capitalizing on his promotion to Anaheim’s top line with captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry after scoring just two goals in his 19 regular-season appearances for the Ducks.
"We’re just having a lot of fun," Smith-Pelly said. "This is what you dream about, playing in the playoffs."
The Ducks also got another standout game from Gibson, who shut out the Kings in Game 4 to even the series in his Anaheim playoff debut.
"I think I got tested more," Gibson said. "It’s fun. I’m just trying to take it all in and win some hockey games."
Gibson’s fifth career NHL appearance was tougher than the first four — but his teammates also helped out much more this time, scoring four regulation goals against the Kings for the first time in the rivals’ 10 total meetings this season.
Marian Gaborik scored his NHL-best seventh and eighth goals of the postseason for the Kings, including a redirection with 5:48 left to trim Anaheim’s lead to one goal. Los Angeles pressed throughout the final minutes to finish with a playoff-high 42 shots, outshooting the Ducks 14-2 in the third period, but couldn’t beat Gibson for the equalizer.
"We were talking about how we have to get to Gibson, and if we do, things are happening," Gaborik said. "If we get shots through and try to go to the net, rebounds are there, and we got some chances. We have to keep doing that and we have to clean a lot of stuff up. We’re coming home. We’re confident we can win and come back here."
Trevor Lewis also scored and Jonathan Quick stopped 20 shots for the Kings, who will face their fifth elimination game of the postseason at Staples Center on Wednesday. They’re on their second three-game skid of the playoffs — bookending a six-game winning streak.
The road team had won every game in the first series between these rivals separated by 30 miles of freeway, but the Ducks snapped the Kings’ four-game road playoff winning streak dating to their 0-3 comeback in the first round against San Jose.
"Tonight isn’t about the third (period), it’s about the second," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We made too many easy mistakes, and we had to try to come back the way we did. It’s too hard."
After Bonino and Lewis traded goals in the first period, Anaheim took the lead for good 1:11 into the second when Mathieu Perreault’s shot off Selanne’s pass glanced off Smith-Pelly’s toe in the crease.
"I didn’t really do anything," Smith-Pelly said with a grin.
Smith-Pelly then broke in alone on Quick 83 seconds later when Getzlaf intercepted Martinez’s pass in the neutral zone, and Silfverberg put the Ducks up 4-1 midway through the period.
The Kings gathered themselves and finally capitalized on a double-minor by Smith-Pelly when Gaborik scored in front, getting his fourth goal in the series’ three games in Anaheim.
After several minutes of fruitless work for the Kings, Brown shoveled a backhand at the net and Gaborik redirected it home.
NOTES: Perreault returned to Anaheim’s lineup after missing Game 4 with an injury, and rookie Rickard Rakell was scratched. Ducks F Matt Beleskey missed his second straight game after getting hurt in Game 3. . . . F Jordan Nolan replaced Kyle Clifford in the Kings’ lineup. Nolan hadn’t played since Game 3 of the first round against San Jose, sitting out eight straight games. . . . The Kings are still without two key veteran defensemen. Willie Mitchell missed his sixth straight game, and Robyn Regehr sat out his fourth.