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ANAHEIM -- A game 20 years in the making began with chants of "Go Kings Go!" that had to be drowned out by "Go Ducks Go!" and "Let's Go Ducks!" Oohs and aahs for every hard hit and shot off the post filled a standing room-only Honda Center for the first Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
It was worth the wait.
Marian Gaborik sent the Kings fans in the building happy when he scored at 12:17 of overtime to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win Saturday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series.
"The atmosphere in the crowd was pretty good tonight," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "One of the loudest I've heard in this arena. I think a lot of that had to do with the Kings fans here. This is huge for California. But I think that all the players in here, as much as we all know about it, we're just focused on winning games, and that's all that matters to us."
Game 2 is Monday night at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Gaborik, whose goal with 7.0 seconds remaining in regulation forced OT, won it when he came in from the left side and tipped Anze Kopitar's pass from the high slot into the net after Doughty executed a pass from the boards out to Kopitar. Gaborik's fifth goal of the playoffs gave the Kings their fifth straight win in the postseason and sent the orange-clad portion of the crowd of 17,393 out the door in silence.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Gaborik is the first player in Stanley Cup Playoffs history to score a tying goal in the final 10 seconds of regulation and then win the game in overtime.
It was a cruel loss for the Ducks, who were seven seconds away from a win and outplayed the Kings for large stretches of the game, including overtime, but found out again how difficult it will be to score two or more goals against Los Angeles.
"It's pretty painful right when it happens but … you've got to move on," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. "We're in for the long run here. It's going to be a long series, and tonight showed that.
"It was an exciting hockey game. I don't think you'll find a better game than that. It was pretty fun to play in, I just wish we would have put the last one in."
The Kings tied the game at 2-2 when Gaborik batted the rebound of Mike Richards' shot out of the air and between goalie Jonas Hiller's pads. The building was still in disbelief when the teams headed to their dressing rooms. Anaheim had called timeout with 40 seconds remaining to prepare but the Kings pulled goalie Jonathan Quick for a sixth attacker.
It was quasi-redemption for Richards, who missed on a 2-on-1 with Justin Williams late in regulation.
"I don't think there was a real breakdown," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They made a good play.
"You get scored on with seven seconds to go, it's a tough one to swallow. I think this is what all the games are going to be like. We had opportunities to win the game. We didn't convert. They converted when they had to."
The Kings' win came with a price. They went down to five defensemen after Robyn Regehr left the game in the first period. Regehr was hit against the end boards by Selanne and did not return. Los Angeles was already without Willie Mitchell, who sat out with a lower-body injury and was replaced by Matt Greene.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter did not have an update on Regehr. Jeff Schultz is available unless the team recalls another defenseman from its AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
Gaborik's heroics ruined the juicy storyline of Teemu Selanne, 43, whose third-period goal would have stood as the game-winner. Selanne, whose career predates the existence of his Ducks, finished a 2-on-2 rush when he took a pass from Patrick Maroon and nudged the puck five-hole on Quick at 8:08 to make it 2-1.
Selanne became the third-oldest player in NHL history to score a playoff goal. Only Gordie Howe (52 in 1980) and Chris Chelios (45 in 2007) were older.
The much-anticipated game featured the tug-of-war dynamic expected between the offensively deep Ducks and the deliberate defensive style of the Kings. After much speculation about Anaheim's starting goalie, Hiller got the nod and stopped 33 shots. Quick completed a stretch of three goals allowed in 11 periods before Selanne notched his 43rd career postseason goal.
Anaheim was credited with 54 hits and Los Angeles 41. Kopitar had three assists in his matchup with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had two. Kopitar leads the NHL with 13 points (four goals) in eight playoff games.
The two goals allowed in regulation by Los Angeles equaled the number it allowed in its previous three games. The Kings prevailed despite going more than 17 minutes without a shot, from Alec Martinez's first-period goal to the second period.
Not bad for a series opener.
"It was awesome," Sutter said. "It's what you expect. The building was great. It was a physical game, and I think the crowd really responded to that. Going to be a good series, I hope."
The Kings were fewer than 72 hours removed from one of the biggest Game 7 wins in franchise history, a historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks. They appeared drained midway through the game when they were under duress, but managed a 1-1 tie going into the third period after the Ducks' Nick Bonino and Corey Perry each hit a post.
"I think we showed in the last series that our team doesn't give up," said Doughty, who played 33:06. "We're a very resilient team. We never once believed that we were going to lose that game. And even with a minute left and the timeouts were called, we really believed that we were going to get that goal. Maybe it was a lucky goal or whatnot, but it doesn't matter how it went in. It went in."
Getzlaf came back from a blocked shot off his knee and triggered an eruption among the Anaheim fans in the building when he set up the Ducks' first goal. He drove the right side around Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, faked a wraparound and fed Matt Beleskey for a tap-in into an open net at 11:41, tying the game at 1-1.
Martinez opened the scoring at 9:04 with his first playoff goal since Game 3 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final and the Kings' seventh power-play goal in 22 tries in the past six games.
|PPG - Alec Martinez (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Marian Gaborik (3), Anze Kopitar (7)|
1 - 0 LAK
|Matt Beleskey (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Ryan Getzlaf (5), Cam Fowler (3)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Teemu Selanne (1) Backhand shot - ASST: Patrick Maroon (4), Ryan Getzlaf (6)|
2 - 1 ANA
|Marian Gaborik (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Mike Richards (2), Anze Kopitar (8)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1st OT Period|
|Marian Gaborik (5) Tip-in - ASST: Anze Kopitar (9), Drew Doughty (7)|
3 - 2 LAK
|Teemu Selanne Interference against Robyn Regehr|
|Nick Bonino Hooking against Mike Richards|
|Justin Williams Slashing against Devante Smith-Pelly|
|Slava Voynov Interference against Teemu Selanne|
|Jakob Silfverberg Boarding against Jake Muzzin|
|Anze Kopitar Hooking against Matt Beleskey|
|Tanner Pearson Tripping against Hampus Lindholm|
|Matt Beleskey Tripping against Anze Kopitar|
|1st OT Period|