Ryan Kesler jumped into the Freeway Faceoff with both skates, getting the puck past Jonathan Quick three times and leading the Anaheim Ducks to a thrilling comeback victory.
Looks like the Ducks’ rivalry with the Los Angeles Kings is still sizzling from last season’s playoff meeting — and now it has a prominent new player.
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Kesler netted two third-period goals and scored again in the shootout, lifting the Ducks over the Kings 6-5 on Wednesday night.
Ryan Getzlaf scored the tying goal with 1:39 left in regulation as Anaheim survived a dramatic finish to the Southern California rivals’ first meeting since the Kings beat the Ducks in seven grueling second-round postseason games last spring.
After he caught his breath from matching his career-high with three points, Kesler knew he was in the middle of something special.
"It was intense and fun," said Kesler, who arrived from Vancouver in a major summer trade. "It was two good teams going against each other. It kind of had the same feeling as the Kings-Canucks rivalry."
Those clubs have a rivalry, all right — but this local derby is a bit bigger. The playoff series added real spark to what had been a purely geographical rivalry, and the regular-season series continues Saturday at Staples Center.
"People know what the rivalry is all about now," said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, whose club had dropped its last three games in shootouts. "We never quit. I thought we played so hard. We kept coming back, and I think we got tired of losing in the shootout."
Jakob Silfverberg got his first goal of the season and scored in the shootout for the Ducks. Jason LaBarbera made 14 saves for Anaheim after relieving Frederik Andersen, stopping Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar in the shootout.
Anaheim won four straight in the regular-season rivalry last season. The Ducks then took a 3-2 series lead in the franchises’ first playoff meeting, but Los Angeles won the series with a blowout victory in Game 7 at Honda Center, which is routinely filled with thousands of Kings fans.
"Our fans were louder than theirs, there’s no doubt about that," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who had a goal and an assist. "So that was a good feeling. That made it feel like a playoff atmosphere. It’s a tough team to play against. We’ve been battling with them for years, and we’re going to continue to battle with them this year. I think all of the games are going to be played that way."
Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams scored third-period goals for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who blew a two-goal lead in the final six minutes of regulation.
The third period got crazy after Kesler tied it with an early goal in the slot. Gaborik then put a wicked wrist shot past LaBarbera before Williams put the Kings up 5-3.
But Kesler scored again with 5:40 left, and Getzlaf redirected a puck from Devante Smith-Pelly in front for the tying goal.
Quick stopped 44 shots for Los Angeles, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter saw none of the entertainment value recognized by Boudreau.
"It was just a good pond hockey game," Sutter said. "It looked like one of our preseason games. I don’t think we had much energy and focus."
In their first meeting since the Kings ended Teemu Selanne’s career, Kopitar opened the scoring with his first career penalty-shot goal. Doughty got his first goal of the season before Trevor Lewis chased Andersen, who whiffed on an innocent wrist shot by the Kings grinder.
Anaheim stayed close with goals from Cam Fowler and Silfverberg. The Ducks outshot the Kings 31-12 in the first two periods.
Corey Perry missed his fourth straight game, and defenseman Francois Beauchemin sat out his second straight for the Ducks. Both veterans were diagnosed with the mumps earlier Wednesday. Beauchemin was hospitalized to receive IV fluids.
NOTES: Kopitar had missed on his two previous penalty shots in nine NHL seasons. … Los Angeles hadn’t scored on a penalty shot since Jan. 23, 2012, when Lewis did it against Ottawa. … Defenseman Jamie McBain played 11:47 one day after signing with the Kings, who don’t have the salary cap room to recall a prospect from the minors.