LOS ANGELES – In the battle of wills, the edge went to the Los Angeles Kings in this one.
As could be expected, the Battle for SoCal series between the Ducks and Kings will be decided by a Game 7, after the Kings clamped down on Anaheim in a hard-fought 2-1 victory tonight at Staples Center.
The Kings got goals from Jake Muzzin and Trevor Lewis, and held the Ducks to just 22 shots (21 of them stopped by Jonathan Quick) to stay alive in a tense series that will be decided Friday night at Honda Center.
The Ducks could get little going offensively the entire night, and their desperate attempts to tie the game in the final minute – with goalie John Gibson sent off for an extra attacker – were all denied by Quick and the five guys in front of him. The Ducks showed most of their push in the final period with 10 shots, but couldn't manage to get the equalizer.
"They wanted to win tonight," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "You never want to wait until the seventh game. You want to win it when you can. We didn’t get it done, but we’ll get better and we’ll get ready. We’ll have a heck of a game on Friday."
On a night where room on the ice was at a premium, the two teams combined for 74 hits and 30 blocked shots.
And in a series where the team that scores the first goal has won every game, the Kings struck first on a Muzzin goal 8:16 into the game. The Ducks turned the puck over in their own end and suffered a defensive breakdown as Anze Kopitar fed a wide open Muzzin for the one-timer.
"We knew they were going to come out with a strong push," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. "It just seems like whoever gets the first goal in this series is able to carry a lot of momentum. I thought our guys did a good job battling. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t crack them one more time."
The Kings made it 2-0 six minutes into the middle session on a shot that Gibson would love to have back. Hustling down the left wing, Lewis wristed a shot that hit the 20-year-old rookie in the leg pads and leaked behind him over the stripe, with Gibson snapping his head back in disbelief.
"We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but we played well in the second period," said Ducks winger Kyle Palmieri. "We got a lot of chances, but their goalie made big saves at big times."
Anaheim got within a goal with 4:18 left in the period, as Kyle Palmieri swept behind the Kings net and tucked a wraparound inside the left post. But that was all the Ducks could muster tonight.
"They’ve been in this situation before, and they know what to do with the lead," Palmieri said. "It was tough to get in and get opportunities on them. But overall, it wasn’t a full 60-minute effort. We’ll be better."
Gibson (21 saves) suffered the first loss of his short NHL career after winning twice late in the regular season, then winning Game 4 here at Staples Center and Game 5 in Anaheim.
The Ducks will look to regroup in Game 7, their second chance to close out this series. "It’s going to take somebody getting a lucky bounce and holding onto the lead," Boudreau said. "They’re a very good team that knows how to play with the lead. You’re going to need 20 players playing the best game they can play on both sides. There can’t be any passengers."