Ducks not playing scared against defending champion Kings

After last season’s historic Freeway Faceoff series matchup in the playoffs, it’s nearly impossible for southern California’s two hockey teams to play each other without conjuring up memories of goalie battles and the Selanne stick tap. 

After the Ducks walked away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Kings on Saturday night at the Staples Center, it’s clear that one team still thinks about that series a little more than the other.

Based on standings alone, the Ducks clearly are the better team. They lead the league in points and have an uncanny ability to come from behind and win in dramatic fashion. They haven’t lost a one-goal game in regulation all season, and it’s rare when they don’t earn a point. 

But the Kings won it all last season, and despite their struggles at the moment, the banner the Ducks played underneath Saturday night clearly still means something to the team that was eliminated on the Kings’ road to the Stanley Cup.

"We can compete with them," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They may win, but we are not afraid to play them anymore."

The Ducks played anything but scared in the third Freeway Faceoff matchup this season. They gave up a power play goal with 19 seconds left of a four-minute double-minor to let the Kings go up 2-1. Yet the Ducks never panicked. Nearly every shift of the third period was spent in the Kings’ zone with just enough offense to keep their opponents on their heels and tie the game up.

Their patience is almost as strong as their offense, if not stronger.

"You want to be built that way," Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "When you’re in one-goal games, you don’t want to panic, you just want to play hockey. I thought tonight we did a great job of that – just playing all night long and not losing composure when the game got tough. Those are things that we’ve lacked at times, but we were able to keep it going all night long."

Getzlaf scored in the second and it was Sami Vatanen, who is quickly proving himself as an asset on the power play, who scored in the third to tie it up. Their execution level was high over the final seven minutes, keeping the puck on the L.A. end of the ice and letting goaltender Frederik Andersen make big stops when it was on the other side.

They put it into overtime, and then a shootout, where the Kings have been dismal all season. And Andersen made Jakob Silfverberg’s shootout goal stand up.

The right winger had been succesful on 60 percent of his shootout chances this season, and he bested Jonathan Quick with a shot that was heard all the way up in the nosebleeds. 

"I’ve been taking a lot of shootouts so far this year and have been lucky enough to put a lot of them in," he said. "It’s a lot about confidence going in there and I feel like I have the confidence with me now, and I have the confidence with Bruce."

He’s quickly becoming one of the Ducks’ most reliable shooters, which is nothing short of an asset for a team that ends up in a shootout a few times a week. 

"When we played him in Ottawa, I remember the announcer saying that he was very good in the shootout and had a tremendous release," Boudreau said. "And then we got him the very next year and it dawned on me that that’s what he said… I gave him a shot at it and he scored, and he scored again and he scored again."

While this game certainly had a playoff-like feel to it, it’s still only January. But it was the second time this week that Boudreau has referenced the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory. Who could blame him if it still stings? 

The Ducks are playing fearless, and maybe that’s the answer.

"You could feel (the Kings) when they were going to score, when they were putting a push on," Boudreau said. "When we are behind we push a little harder."