ANAHEIM - Fans saw two different Ducks teams tonight at Honda Center - the one that looked listless in falling into a 3-0 hole to the Kings after two periods and the inspired one that nearly pulled off a miracle comeback in the third.
As it was, the early deficit proved too steep to overcome, as Anaheim's attempts to tie the game late in the third fell just short in a 3-2 defeat to rival LA. Third period goals from Antoine Vermette and Rickard Rakell got the Ducks within one, but they were never able to get the equalizer, despite a two-man advantage for nearly the last two minutes.
After a Derek Forbort tripping penalty on Ryan Getzlaf with 1:53 left, the Ducks pulled goalie John Gibson to create a 6-on-4, but they couldn't get one through before the Kings cleared the zone with seconds left on the clock. That finished off a 1-for-7 night on the power play for Anaheim.
"I wish we would have played the whole game like we did the last period," said Rakell, no doubt echoing the sentiments of Ducks fans watching this one tonight. "Maybe it would've been different. We have to move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again."
For LA, the win was a bit of retribution for a 4-0 drumming the Ducks handed the Kings on November 1 at Staples Center, a 12th win in the last 16 regular season games for Anaheim vs. LA. Tonight's victory also vaulted the Kings (10-9-1) into a tie with the Ducks (9-7-3) for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
The Ducks remain in search of their first three-game winning streak of the season, while the win tonight was LA's third in a row. The Kings beat New Jersey 4-2 yesterday afternoon at Staples Center, but it was the Ducks who looked more like the team that had played the night before over the first 40 minutes.
"There wasn't much patting on the back going on in the room," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "They out-worked us for two periods and got the two points. If you're not prepared to play 60 minutes, you're not going to have success."
After a scoreless first, the Kings got on the board 2:15 into the second when Drew Doughty's shot from the right wing got past Gibson, who may have been screened by teammate Kevin Bieksa as he battled just outside the crease.
LA made it 2-0 on their first power play of the night, as Jeff Carter crashed the net on the rush and tapped in a perfect Tanner Pearson pass.
Another power play came soon afterward, as did another Kings goal, as a rebound hit Carter in the chest, and he punched the puck into a wide open net as it fell to his feet.
Meanwhile, the Ducks had a lot of trouble generating anything on offense, getting outshot 26-13 through the first two periods and not even reaching double-digits in shots on net until late in the second.
"You have to give them credit," Vermette said. "They played hard and executed. They capitalized on their opportunities. They had two power plays and made them count. Those two goals were big. That was a big momentum swing. We have to be ready right away."
The Ducks emerged for the third period with new life, and they cut into the lead 3:34 into it when a Kyle Clifford roughing penalty wiped out a Kings power play, and Vermette tipped through a Hampus Lindholm shot out of mid-air.
Video: LAK@ANA: Vermette deflects a goal past Budaj
Anaheim got within a goal with two seconds remaining on another power play when Jakob Silfverberg made a pretty feed to Rakell, who banged it home from the slot for his sixth of the year in only 10 games.
Video: LAK@ANA: Rakell buries a one-timer for a PPG
Josh Manson nearly tied the game with less than five minutes left in the third, his shot from the point sailing through traffic and ringing the left post, one of several near-misses for Anaheim down the stretch.
"When we play the right way consistently, things will turn around," Vermette said. "It was a pretty good third period, but it's disappointing. We were faster, we were quicker, everything was better in the third. We were a much better team at that point."
Anaheim will look to bounce back Tuesday night against the Islanders at Honda Center, the fourth stanza in a five-game homestand.