Although Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks need no extra motivation for the Freeway Faceoff, they welcomed the chance to put a bit more space between themselves and the Los Angeles Kings, who also happen to be their closest pursuers in the Pacific Division.
With one last wrist shot from Perry, the Ducks got it.
Perry scored late in the second period and added the clinching goal in the shootout, leading the Ducks closer to the second division title in club history with a 4-3 victory over the Kings on Sunday night.
The Ducks were outshot 38-22 while playing on their heels for long stretches, but they never trailed – and they were perfect in the shootout. Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu scored on Jonathan Bernier before Perry ended Anaheim’s fourth win in six games.
Viktor Fasth made 35 saves, while Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri also scored in regulation as Anaheim extended its division lead over Los Angeles to nine points and remained five points behind Chicago for the NHL’s best record.
”If we continue to beat the teams behind us, we’ll build our confidence and be in a good position going into the playoffs,” said Perry, who scored his 13th goal. ”Everybody knows (the Kings) are hitting their stride. We knew it was going to be an emotional game out there.”
Indeed, the rivalry game featured plenty of its usual hard hits and after-the-whistle scuffling. The teams wrap up the Freeway Faceoff series on Saturday night at Staples Center – unless they meet in a playoff series for the first time.
Beleskey scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play for Anaheim with 15:06 to play, but Kings captain Dustin Brown tied it with 3:45 left in regulation in the rivals’ third meeting of the season.
”Every time we can gain points, that means it’s harder for both San Jose and L.A. to catch us,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”It’s an important issue to try to get as high as you can and set the bar high for future years, and to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs.”
The Ducks played without captain Ryan Getzlaf for the second straight game. Anaheim’s leading scorer is out with a lower body injury after his right leg bent awkwardly late in the Ducks’ win over Dallas last Wednesday.
Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who had won five of seven. Bernier stopped 18 shots in just his second loss since Feb. 2 for Los Angeles, which never led.
”I think we dominated the whole game,” said Doughty, who scored in his second straight game after getting just one goal in his first 37 games. ”The only thing that’s frustrating is we only get one point. We definitely deserved the two points. We outplayed them. I think there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind about that. … We would have been only six points behind them, and we had a chance to catch them, but we gave up the two to them, and now it’s a little bit more difficult.”
Carter tied it for Los Angeles in the final minute of the second period with his Western Conference-leading 23rd goal, but he took a slashing penalty deep in the offensive zone early in the third to set up an unlikely goal by Beleskey, the scrappy depth forward who makes his biggest contributions as an agitator.
Beleskey collected the rebound of Sheldon Souray’s shot from the point and buried it for his seventh goal of the season – and the first on a power play in his 202-game NHL career.
But the Kings dominated play after that, and Brown finally evened it when he batted Anze Kopitar’s rebound out of the air and past Fasth for the captain’s 15th goal.
”We came back three times,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. ”Can’t complain about that. It was a heck of a game.”
Although the Kings have been Southern California’s top team for the past few years, the Ducks have taken charge of the Pacific from the opening days of the lockout-shortened regular season. Anaheim got off to a 22-3-4 start and has scarcely slumped while taking a healthy lead over Los Angeles and San Jose, which has a game in hand.
Sutter essentially conceded the division race after the Kings’ win over Edmonton on Saturday, although Boudreau respectfully disagrees.
Sutter reiterated his declaration after the game, saying the Ducks are too far ahead to catch.
”I went to school, I graduated, and I can do the math,” Sutter said. ”We’ve got to get our own points, because we’re trying to make the playoffs, too.”
NOTES: C Matthew Lombardi played his second game for the Ducks, who acquired him from Phoenix last week. D Robyn Regehr played his third game for the Kings, who got him in a trade with Buffalo. … Kings F Dustin Penner missed his fourth game with a lower body injury. … The Kings and Ducks both confirmed their serious interest in playing an outdoor game next season. The Kings are working on plans to host a game in January, likely at Dodger Stadium.