Kings 5, Ducks 4, SO

If anybody still doubted the balance of power in southern
California hockey has shifted north, the Los Angeles Kings
confirmed it with a comeback win that left even their biggest
rivals impressed by this playoff-bound club’s tenacity.

Michal Handzus tied it with 1:09 left in regulation to cap the
Kings’ rally from a three-goal deficit, and Anze Kopitar scored the
decisive shootout goal in Los Angeles’ 5-4 victory over the Anaheim
Ducks on Tuesday night.

Justin Williams had a goal and an assist in the third period for
the Kings, who trailed 4-1 late in the second period before
rallying for their fourth win in six games against Anaheim in the
annual Freeway Faceoff. While Los Angeles clinched its first
playoff berth since 2002 two days earlier, the Ducks were
eliminated from the postseason for the first time since before the
NHL work stoppage in 2004-05.

Los Angeles moved up to sixth in the Western Conference
standings, one point ahead of Detroit.

“Young guys figure out how to work hard on a daily basis, and I
think they’ve figured it out,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “We
talked about making the playoffs as our goal this year in training
camp, and the young guys in there should be proud of themselves.
The second half of this game is what we need to bring into our last
three games and beyond.”

After Williams trimmed the Ducks’ lead to 4-3 with 12:04 to
play, Los Angeles evened it with its first rush after goalie Erik
Ersberg left the net. Williams chipped a pass from the wall and
past Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer to Handzus, who poked it home
for his 19th goal.

Jack Johnson and Kopitar scored in the shootout, while Ersberg
stopped Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.

“It didn’t look like we were coming back after their fourth
one,” said Ersberg, who made 12 saves after relieving Jonathan
Quick early in the second period. “I’m really happy we turned it
around and got the two points we really deserved tonight. We just
kept going, trusted our system and trusted our team, so it worked
out.”

Alexander Frolov and captain Dustin Brown also scored for the
Kings, who pulled Quick after the franchise’s single-season wins
leader yielded three goals on eight shots in the first 22:01.

The Kings’ victory masked a growing problem with Quick, who has
failed in six straight tries to win his 40th game, getting pulled
twice and allowing 17 goals with an .867 save percentage since
March 24. Murray even gave Quick two games off last week to work on
his technique, and rookie Jonathan Bernier looked sharp in two
victories before getting sent back to the minors.

Early in the second period, Quick and Kings defenseman Randy
Jones handed Anaheim its third goal by horribly botching an
exchange behind the net, sending the puck straight to Bobby Ryan in
front for his 32nd goal while Quick still was behind the net.

Murray said Quick’s “concentration was a bit off here.”

“He’s at a critical position, (but) he will bounce back,”
Murray added. “He’s been through these kinds of (slumps) at
different times of the year, and he’s always come back and
responded the right way.”

Teemu Selanne scored two goals for the Ducks, who weren’t
officially out of the playoff race until moments before the
shootout began. That’s when the Colorado Avalanche won their own
shootout against Vancouver to eliminate Anaheim, capping a
disappointing season for the 2007 Stanley Cup champions.

“It’s hard to lose when you’re up 4-1,” Selanne said. “It’s
an example of what happens when you stop forechecking and shooting.
We knew it was a long shot to make the playoffs, but we still
wanted to play well.”

Ryan and Jason Blake each had a goal and an assist for the
Ducks, who seemed to be cruising to their ninth victory in 12 games
before the evening fell apart – just like the season of a club that
couldn’t make the playoffs with eight Olympians in its lineup.

“Today was a game that was very similar to many that we played
this year,” Niedermayer said. “It was disappointing to let it get
away. It’s been a tough year. We’re disappointed that we’re in this
situation. We’re not happy at all.”

Selanne scored his 604th and 605th career goals to extend a late
surge in what the Finnish forward says is likely his final NHL
season. He has five goals in the Ducks’ last four games, moving
within three goals of Dino Ciccarelli for 16th place on the
league’s career goal-scoring list.

Ducks backup goalie Curtis McElhinney made 36 saves. Anaheim
played its sixth straight game without star center Ryan Getzlaf,
who has a sprained left ankle, and goalie Jonas Hiller, who has
back spasms.

NOTES: Ducks D Lubomir Visnovsky had two assists before injuring
his hand late in the game. Carlyle didn’t know the injury’s
severity, but said he suspected it was “significant.” … Getzlaf
says he still intends to try to play on his injured ankle in the
Ducks’ final three regular-season games. He played through the
injury while helping Canada to a gold medal in the Vancouver
Olympics, but has aggravated it several times since. … Los
Angeles last overcame a three-goal deficit Feb. 6 against
Detroit.