LOS ANGELES — The Ducks and Kings engaged in a fierce overtime battle that essentially was meaningless. Yet the battle that waged during the five sudden-death minutes and the ensuing shootout gave the hockey world a glimpse of a potential second-round playoff matchup.
While it was the Ducks that won this battle, 4-3 in a shootout, the preview of a possible Stanley Cup Playoff war looked enticing.
The Ducks (53-20-8, 114 points) came into the game needing only a single point to clinch the top playoff seed in the Western Conference, which was effectively earned when the two ended regulation in a 3-3 tie. Devante Smith-Pelly, called up only last week from the Norfolk Admirals, scored the winner in the shootout, the only one to score for either team out of eight shooters.
"They all knew that they just needed a point," said Ducks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We never talked about it, but you could tell after the game was over that they all knew because they all turned and some of them were high-fiving each other. It’s a pretty good accomplishment for them.
"Then we said, ‘Well let’s go win it in the shootout.’"
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The Ducks will face the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have home-ice advantage through the first three rounds, should they advance that far.
"Anytime you have an opportunity to close somebody out and solidify your spot that’s what you want to do," said captain Ryan Getzlaf. "Our team showed that tonight. That we were able to do that, it showed good visual and mental health for us."
The Kings (46-28-8, 100 points) got on the board first with a goal from captain Dustin Brown, but Nick Bonino tied it up less than two minutes later with a highlight-reel backhand from his knees past Jonathan Quick.
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Smith-Pelly scored just 2:33 into the second for his second goal of the season but the two teams traded goals from there.
The game as a whole was everything you would want and expect in a rivalry game with big hits and big shots, but overtime was possibly the most entertaining five minutes.
Finally, it was up to goaltender Frederik Andersen and Smith-Pelly, both in their first career shootouts. Andersen denied all four shooters he faced before Smith-Pelly snapped one past Quick, one of the top goaltenders in the league, and once again, it was the Ducks that were victorious in the Freeway Faceoff series, their fourth win over their rivals this season.
"He’s a pretty good goalie so maybe that moves me up the (shootout) list," Smith-Pelly said. "It doesn’t matter if I get on the scoresheet or not but it’s always cool to contribute."
Sunday night, the Ducks will play in their final regular season game, hosting the Avalanche. It will also be Teemu Selanne’s final regular season game at the Honda Center, as the forward is set to retire at the conclusion of this season.
Selanne was a healthy scratch Saturday at the Staples Center but the sellout crowd of purple and silver Kings fans still gave him a standing ovation, cheering as the Kings organization presented the 21-year veteran with a paddle board and honored him in a pregame ceremony.
"I’m glad he was recognized tonight and I hope that board works for him," said Kings’ head coach and Selanne’s former head coach in San Jose, Darryl Sutter. "He’s a great player and has had a great career."