ANAHEIM – What promised to be an epic Game 7 between the Ducks and Kings was virtually over before it started.
In front of an anxious sellout crowd at Honda Center, the Kings scored three times in the game’s first 15 minutes and hardly looked back in a 6-2 downing of the Ducks to clinch the first playoff series between the bitter SoCal rivals.
"They came out and got some quick goals and never really looked back," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "Really tough emotions right now. They came out and played the way they can play. They’re a good hockey team. They know what they’re doing in these situations."
The Kings outplayed and outworked the Ducks for most of the night, showing yet again why they’re now 6-0 in elimination games this postseason, including Game 6 two nights ago in LA.
"It’s what we worked for, for these situations in case there was a Game 7," Getzlaf said. "We had it in our building. We weren’t able to take advantage of it tonight."
John Gibson, the 20-year-old rookie goalie who valiantly won Games 4 and 5 for the Ducks, was – like his teammates – not his sharpest tonight. Gibson, who lost for the first time in his career in Game 6, gave up four goals on 18 shots before being pulled early in the second period.
In a series where the team to score first has won each game, the Kings did it this time on a Justin Williams strike 4:30 after the opening faceoff. After a Ben Lovejoy holding penalty, a Kings shot from the point rebounded off Gibson and Williams took two pokes at it to get it over the stripe. It was the sixth Game 7 goal in Williams’ career (including his time with the Carolina Hurricanes).
The Kings made it 2-0 off a Ducks turnover, as Marian Gaborik tapped the puck to a streaking Jeff Carter, who got in front of rookie Hampus Lindholm for the breakaway backhander.
With just under five minutes left in the period, Dwight King fired a shot from the slot that rebounded off Gibson, and Richards chipped it through to make it 3-0 LA.
"The first period was like men against boys, quite frankly," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "They were bigger, stronger, faster, and seemed more determined. We were on our heels. Everything we said we wanted not to do, we did."
It was more of the same in the second, as just two minutes into the period, the Kings got on a 2-on-1 off a Ducks turnover and Anze Kopitar sniped a shot past Gibson.
The Ducks pulled Gibson for Jonas Hiller after that goal, though that didn’t give the Ducks the spark they hoped for. They still couldn’t get much past Jonathan Quick (25 saves), and the Kings made it 5-0 off a power play following a dubious goalie interference call on Kyle Palmieri. LA once again took advantage, as Kopitar made a cross-ice pass to Gaborik, who got it behind Hiller from the slot.
Anaheim mercifully got its first goal with 2:55 left in the second when Andrew Cogliano fed Palmieri from behind the net for the one-timer that Quick pinned between his pad and the net, just over the stripe.
"By the time we started playing well in the second, Quick was there to make the saves when they needed them," Boudreau said.
The Ducks played with more urgency in the third and gave themselves a glimmer to hope 3:42 into the third period. Ryan Getzlaf backhanded a pass to Corey Perry in the slot, and Perry wristed it past Quick on the stick side to make it 5-2.
But they wouldn’t find the net again, and the Kings made it 6-2 on the odd-man rush when Carter fed Tanner Pearson for the tap-in. From there, it was just a countdown to the final horn for the Ducks and their shell-shocked fans.
"We just need to keep working," Getzlaf said when asked what the message was to the Ducks faithful. "We had a heck of a year. A lot of good things happened, and we made a lot of good strides. There were good emotions throughout this building. I thank the fans for showing up every night and supporting us through this whole [season]."
It was an unfortunate way to go out for 43-year-old legend Teemu Selanne, who announced before this season that it would be his last, making a painful final appearance tonight. Selanne and the rest of the Ducks saluted the fans after the handshakes between the two teams.
"It was very disappointing," Selanne said. "I knew it was either going to be an unbelievable party or disappointment. This time it wasn’t the party. It’s very disappointing. We had no business there. It’s a funny game. We had our chances. We just couldn’t take advantage of them. That’s the way it goes."
The Kings move on to their third straight Western Conference Final and will face the Blackhawks in a series that gets underway Sunday afternoon. It's a series in which the Ducks, and Selanne, felt like they belonged.
"It’s a tough feeling," Selanne said. "You want to go further. We all felt we had a chance to go to the next round, and maybe all the way. It’s going to be tough waking up tomorrow morning and realizing it’s all over. But I want to look at the big picture and enjoy this game, my teammates, the fans and the organization. Not even in my wildest dreams did I expect to have a career like this. I’m very thankful."