Facing a two-goal deficit and a 112-minute scoring drought heading into the third period against their biggest rivals, the Anaheim Ducks realized their whole season might be affected by the way they finished Friday night.
Corey Perry and the Ducks did everything the right way, and they reaped an impressive reward in the Freeway Faceoff.
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Perry scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:39 to play, and Anaheim furiously rallied for a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
Ryan Kesler and Emerson Etem scored 90 seconds apart early in the third period for the Ducks, who beat the defending Stanley Cup champions for the third time in four lively meetings this season. That didn’t seem likely when Anaheim trudged off its ice trailing 2-0 after two periods, unable to cash in on chances against the tenacious Kings.
"It’s just sticking with your game plan," said Perry, who put his second goal into an empty net in the final minute. "We’re going out, we’re doing all the right things, and it’s eventually going to break the right way for us. It gives us confidence, that’s for sure. But you’re not going to come back from 2-0 in the third every single night."
Actually, the Ducks have done it five times this season — twice against the Kings.
Perry secured the seventh 25-goal season of his NHL career when he slipped past two Kings to put home a bouncing puck dropped into the slot by captain Ryan Getzlaf. It wasn’t exactly a classic Getzlaf-to-Perry connection, but Perry alertly followed Kyle Palmieri’s lead block and scored.
"It was tape to tape, I guess you could say," Perry said with a laugh.
"Oh, it was a great pass, and Perry just had to tap it into the net," Getzlaf added.
Perry then scored with 23.6 seconds left on a high-arcing shot to cap a joyous third period for the Ducks, who have won four of five to boost their Pacific Division lead to 12 points.
"I think this team turned the corner tonight," said Kesler, whose opening goal was his first point in 10 games. "That’s the kind of hockey we need to be playing right now."
Trevor Lewis and Brayden McNabb scored for the Kings, who have lost two straight after an eight-game surge. Martin Jones stopped 28 shots in his first start since Jan. 14 in place of Jonathan Quick, who had started 16 straight games.
John Gibson made 20 saves while appearing in his ninth straight game for Anaheim.
While the Ducks enjoyed their comeback, the Kings lamented their late fold.
"We got away from the things that were winning us games previously," Jeff Carter said. "This was a tough one. … At this point of the year when we’re blowing third-period leads, it’s tough to take because of the points we need right now."
This rivalry series concludes March 18, but the title-contending rivals easily could meet again in the postseason. Anaheim has won seven of the last eight regular-season meetings overall, but Los Angeles claimed a bruising seven-game series in the second round last spring.
"The Ducks are a good team, and there’s a reason they’ve won the division for a couple of years in a row now," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We didn’t manage the puck very well tonight."
Defenseman Andrej Sekera made his debut for the Kings two days after they acquired the puck-moving veteran from Carolina. He teamed with former Buffalo teammate Robyn Regehr.
Lewis put Los Angeles ahead late in the first period, ending a 132-minute stretch of scoreless hockey for the champs. The Kings didn’t even manage a shot in the first 10 minutes of a back-and-forth second period until McNabb’s long fling through traffic deflected off Hampus Lindholm for his first goal since Dec. 26, 2011, for Buffalo, ending a 79-game drought.
Kesler finally ended the Ducks’ three-game scoreless skid at 116 minutes, 40 seconds, and the crowd hadn’t quieted when Etem cashed in on a strong forecheck by Jiri Sekac, who earned his first point with his new team.
NOTES: Chris Wagner appeared in his third NHL game and his first since Nov. 15, centering Anaheim’s fourth line in the absence of Nate Thompson, who missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … Jamie McBain was a healthy scratch to make room for Sekera on Los Angeles’ blue line…. Frederik Andersen returned to uniform, backing up Gibson after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. The Danish goalie still ranks fifth in the NHL with 29 victories.