Thankfully and joyfully, the Kings and Ducks picked up right where they left off from that tantalizing postseason matchup last season.
This game had a little bit of everything, only this time the Ducks rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third-period to win 6-5 in a shootout at the Honda Center.
The Kings won Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals here, and the Ducks, in part, put that behind them with this victory.
There was an official mumps diagnosis for two Ducks players and some Kings players were sick. Frederik Andersen was pulled by the Ducks in the second period after a nonchalant effort, and Jonathan Quick made some of his customary acrobatic saves.
There was a little bit of shoving 66 seconds into the game, and Mike Richards got hit with a puck.
Anze Kopitar started the game by scoring on a penalty shot for the Kings, who would build three two-goal leads, only to watch the Ducks answer right back and win via the shootout.
Ryan Kesler, playing in his first Freeway Faceoff, stomped his way into the series, scoring two goals in the third period and another in the shootout.
"Intense, fun. It’s two good teams going against one another," Kesler said. "I kind of know the rivalry from the Canucks-Kings rivalry and it kind of had the same feeling as that."
Ducks goalie Jason LaBarbera, the former King, entered the game in the second period after Andersen was pulled after allowing his third goal, in which Trevor Lewis beat him glove side.
"When I was in LA before, it wasn’t like this," LaBarbera said. "The fan support and everything that’s happened over the last few years in Southern California is pretty impressive. That, tonight, that felt like a playoff game."
And just like the postseason, there were still audible "Go Kings Go!" chants at the sold out Honda Center.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty wasn’t buying the notion that this game was an extension of the playoffs, but he sure buys this rivalry thing.
"The fans were great out there. Our fans were louder than theirs, there’s no doubt about that," Doughty said. "That was a good feeling. That kind of made it feel like the playoff atmosphere. It’s a tough team to play against. They’re in our division. We’ve been battling with them for years. I think all of the games are going to be like that."
The Ducks and Kings have a rematch scheduled for Saturday at Staples Center. That can’t come fast enough.
The teams combined for 10 goals, but the Kings also had 12 turnovers that proved too costly. Darryl Sutter shortened his bench, but what was particularly damaging was that the Kings let a 5-3 lead with 8:59 left slip away.
Unless, you subscribe to the Sutter school of thought, in which he never believes his team has a lead when it’s not playing well, even if the scoreboard indicates otherwise.
"I don’t think we let it get away, we never really had the lead," Sutter said. "If you define it by goals having the lead (sure), but we really never had the lead. If it wasn’t for Jonathan, it wasn’t even close. They’re a much better team than we are."
The Ducks had lost their three previous games, the last two in a shootout and the other one in overtime.
It would be a back-and-forth affair in which no lead proved to be safe. It was loud and exciting.
Who says this isn’t a rivalry?
"For people who saw it (live) on rivalry night, they know what they rivalry is all about now," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought it was a pretty intense game, and exciting for the fans."