LOS ANGELES – Tab them the ‘Cardiac Kings’.
For the fifth time this postseason, the Kings have avoided elimination, proving to be their strongest when their backs are against the wall, squeezing out a 2-1 win Wednesday night at STAPLES Center to even this Western Conference semi final series with the Ducks, extending it to a final and decisive seventh game.
The Kings set the tempo from the moment the opening puck dropped, and found a plethora of momentum after killing off an early penalty – one of their biggest weaknesses coming into Wednesday’s game.
“We got a couple goals and shut it down pretty good,” Anze Kopitar told reporters following the 2-1 win. “I think we can still play better hockey. We’ve done it before. We know it’s going to get harder obviously.”
Jake Muzzin brought home the results from the Kings' early push.
While the Kings held the Ducks inside their own zone, as Anaheim was unable to clear on multiple attempts, Marian Gaborik settled the puck down along the right sideboards. Gaborik then found Anze Kopitar, who was stationed inside Anaheim’s defense with a quick chip pass.
Kopitar, with one quick look, found Jake Muzzin, who was pinching from the point with a backhand pass, and Muzzin buried the night’s opening goal, beating John Gibson low to the left to give the Kings a 1-0 lead 8:16 into the contest.
It was Muzzin’s third goal of the postseason, and his second point in as many games.
The Kings held the Ducks to just five first period shots.
After killing off another pair of penalties early in the second, Trevor Lewis chimed in with the Kings’ second tally of the night.
Prior to Lewis’ goal, Anaheim was swarming Jonathan Quick’s net with some of the best pressure they’d been able to piece together. Justin Williams, though, hounded on a loose puck in the corner, and delivered a long stretch pass to Lewis, who went the distance.
Lewis, attacking Anaheim’s zone on his own with two defensemen keeping him contained, fired off a snap shot through the Ducks’ defenders that trickled through the pads of John Gibson and into the net to give the Kings a 2-0 lead with 5:56 to play in the middle frame.
For Lewis, it was his fourth goal of the playoffs, and his second in as many games.
Then, and for the only time throughout the night, the Kings were caught napping, just 1:38 after Lewis’ goal.
Tanner Pearson botched a clearing attempt, and Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri hopped on the loose puck, drove the puck wide past Kings defenders, around the back of the net, and tucked home a wrap-around goal to cut the Kings lead to 2-1 with 4:18 left in the second period.
The Kings were able to keep the Ducks at bay in the third period, killing off two more penalties, protecting their one goal lead to secure a 2-1 victory.
For the first time this series, the Ducks went without scoring a power play goal. The Kings killed off all five of their penalties, taking away what is arguably the Ducks’ biggest weapon to their offensive scheme.
Jonathan Quick stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced, rebounding from his three previous starts this series in which he allowed nine goals on 57 shots.
Trevor Lewis, with two goals in the past two games, now has four goals in the postseason. Lewis scored six goals in 73 regular season games.
Anze Kopitar, with his assist on Jake Muzzin’s goal, now has recorded at least one point in 12 of the Kings’ 13 playoff games, totaling in with 17 points (4G, 13A).
Marian Gaborik, who also assisted on Muzzin’s goal, now has 13 points (8G, 5A) in the Kings’ previous 11.
The series will shift back to Orange County for the decisive Game 7, which is scheduled for a 6:00 PM PST puck drop at Honda Center.