ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings threw everything they had at Jonas Hiller and the Anaheim Ducks. It was just barely enough.
Nothing comes easy in the Southern California rivalry, and the Kings sweated out a 4-2 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at Honda Center.
The top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams scored twice in a three-goal first period and the Kings held off the hard-charging Ducks to move one point behind eighth-place Colorado and seventh-place Phoenix. The Avs and Coyotes have 81 points; the Kings, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks all have 80.
L.A. outshot Anaheim 43-20, but the Ducks had a chance thanks to Hiller, who made 39 saves in his 31st consecutive start.
The Kings are a different, more offensive team lately and their poise in the closing minutes was evident, along with their renewed attitude.
"Guys are scoring," said defenseman Matt Greene, who matched a career-high with two points. "You look at our top line right now – Brownie and Kopi - they're scoring. Those guys are scoring goals. Guys are having success now, and that's what gets confidence going.
"(This is) probably the most consistent in terms of getting offense every night and getting good goaltending. Everything has kind of come together lately, but it's still a long way to go. It's hasn't been too long. It's been a few games."
The Ducks pulled to 3-2 at 3:53 of the third on a highlight coast-to-coast play by defenseman Luca Sbisa, who returned to the lineup from a back injury. But Anaheim couldn't capitalize on a power play they received 5:55 to go and surrendered an empty-net goal to Mike Richards.
"We didn't put up any fight to put any pressure on them," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said of that last power play.
The only reason the Ducks had a chance was Hiller -- L.A. outshot Anaheim 19-6 in the second period -- but Hiller stopped Brown with fewer than three minutes remaining in the second and robbed Jeff Carter with his glove after Sbisa's goal.
"That's why he's a great goalie," Boudreau said. "When you win the period 1-0 and get outshot 19-6, it's a testament to the goalie. That's why I thought when we made it 3-2, I thought it was going to be one of those rare games that we have no right winning that we were going to win."
However, the Kings are almost unbeatable when they score at least three goals – they are now 22-1-2 when they do -- and they reached the magic number on a fortunate swing late in the first period.
Corey Perry, also a surprise return to the lineup with a sore shoulder, lost the puck when he tripped over teammate Sheldon Brookbank in his own end. Drew Doughty started a rush and delivered a nifty backhand feed that Williams backhanded into the net with eight seconds left for a 3-0 lead.
Hiller actually got to a poor start as he gave up two goals on the first seven shots he faced.
Kopitar came down the ice with a head of steam, moved left past Lubomir Visnovsky and ripped a shot high past Hiller's ear for a 2-0 lead at 9:33. That came after Alex Martinez floated a wrist shot from the left point that sailed through a screen and found the net at 2:40. A healthy scratch for large parts of December and January, Martinez scored his first goal since Nov.12.
"We came out strong and it certainly helps to get your legs underneath you," said Kopitar, a noted Ducks killer with 15 goals and 37 points in 36 career games against Anaheim.
"After that first period, we kept on coming, kept on forechecking and shooting the puck, creating chances. We didn't score until the last minute. We were on them and we weren't sitting back."
L.A.'s great start was also a reflection of an unexplained lack of urgency at the start by Anaheim.
"I don't know," captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's a tough thing. One of our biggest games. We're still fighting and had a chance. Even if we're not fighting, we have a chance to knock them back a little bit, too. Those are things that we've got to grasp down the stretch here."
Boudreau said it was egregious given the team's do-or-die scenario. Anaheim is 10 points out of eighth with 10 games to play. It got some help when Calgary lost to Edmonton.
"That's why I was so upset after the first period," Boudreau said. "Everybody knew the importance. We knew what was going on in Edmonton. We knew what we were up against. We knew that L.A. had come out exactly the same way against Detroit the other day. We knew they had had three days off. We knew what to expect. There was no excuse for them coming and just dominating every battle like they did."
Cam Fowler's power-play goal early in the second period got the Ducks on the board and ended L.A.'s streak of 33 straight penalties killed.
This was the first time L.A. beat Anaheim five times in a season, although two of the wins came in shootouts.