The Kings were in the hunt for high-scoring winger Ilya Kovalchuk until almost the last minute, intrigued by what he could do for their power play but adamant that they wouldn’t give up Dustin Brown, Wayne Simmonds and Jack Johnson — or any two of that trio — for a player who could walk away July 1.
General Manager Dean Lombardi decided it was better to allow his team to mature together than tear it apart. And it was difficult to debate that choice after Brown, Simmonds and Johnson each scored in a wild 6-4 victory over the Ducks at Staples Center that gave the Kings a club-record-tying eighth consecutive victory and occupancy of fourth place in the Western Conference.
Johnson had the first four-point game of his career and Anze Kopitar had two goals and two assists to extend his point streak to eight games as the Kings ended the Ducks’ three-game winning streak and left their rivals three points out of a playoff spot.
“You can’t win hockey games when you give up six goals,” Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Kings built a 4-1 lead that the Ducks erased in the third period on goals by Troy Bodie at 3:11, Matt Beleskey at 5:12 and Ryan Carter at 9:35. But Brown converted the rebound of a save Jonas Hiller had made on Kopitar at 14:28, and Kopitar added a power-play goal for insurance at 19:33.
The Kings’ bid for Kovalchuk was rejected in favor of the Devils’ package of defenseman John Oduya, promising forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick in June. But they didn’t lack for goal scoring Thursday in matching the eight-game win streaks assembled by the 1972-73 Kings and repeated by the 1991-92 team.
Jonathan Quick didn’t have his best night, but he stretched his career-high winning streak to eight games, tying a club record set by Kelly Hrudey in 1991-92 and matched by Robb Stauber in 1992-93.
“Trades are going to happen. It’s not our job who gets traded or to worry about who gets traded,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “All we can do is prove our point on the ice.”
That they did.
“I don’t think anyone thought anyone’s leaving this room,” Johnson said. “We got a good team in here. We like our locker room.”
The requisite heavyweight bout between the Ducks’ George Parros and the Kings’ Raitis Ivanans took place at 1:50, and then the teams settled down to play a physical and lively first period. The Ducks scored first and protected that lead for most of the period, but the Kings pulled even with 66 seconds left.
Saku Koivu won a faceoff from Jarret Stoll to set up the Ducks’ goal. The puck came to Teemu Selanne, who poked it back to Koivu. The center fed Blake for a short wrist shot at 5:36.
The Kings’ aggressive forecheck produced a goal when they pressured Scott Niedermayer into turning the puck over behind his net, and Brad Richardson and Simmonds each swiped at it before Kopitar rifled home a wrist shot.
The Kings went ahead 1:04 into the second period, taking advantage of a delayed penalty pending against Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney to get Quick off the ice and Smyth on as the extra forward.
Rob Scuderi kept the puck in the zone and passed to Smyth, who found Kopitar deep in the left-wing corner. Kopitar saw Simmonds on the left side and slid the puck to him. Without hesitation, Simmonds shot from the hash marks and set off a frenzy of applause when the puck popped past Hiller.
The Kings extended their lead to 3-1 at 17:01 of the third period, the Ducks’ punishment for Steve Eminger taking a bad tripping penalty behind their own net at 15:15.
Johnson moved from the right point toward the left and passed to Alexander Frolov, who was in the left circle. The Russian winger’s shot appeared to glance off the stick off Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank before it was deflected by Handzus, who set an excellent screen in front of Hiller.
Johnson made it 4-1 at 1:44 of the third on a one-timer from the left side, set up on a fine pass by Frolov, but the desperate Ducks inched back into the game, a good lesson for the Kings about letting .
“We made it a little more interesting than we would have liked to at the end,” Johnson said, but the most interesting part is they were the same team at the end, without adding Kovalchuk.