ANAHEIM- The Los Angeles Kings had a disappointing start to their first of a "home and home" series against the Ducks tonight, falling 3-1 against their neighbors to the South. The Kings held the Ducks to a tie through two periods, but surrendered two unanswered goals (one empty net) for the final score, a loss that pushed the Kings winless streak in Anaheim to six games at Honda Center.
Jonathan Quick had been slated to start the game but suffered a sore throat earlier Tuesday, allowing Erik Ersberg to return to the lineup. Ersberg had not started since Dec. 15, missing seven games due to a groin injury suffered in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks. Ersberg had been productive against the Ducks, but had not been rewarded for his performance, posting 0-1-2 record vs. the Ducks in his career, despite a 1.30 GAA and a .957 SV% entering tonight's game.
Ersberg was positive about his first game back.
"I felt pretty good, I thought that the goals were tough ones," said Ersberg. "I felt pretty good out there. They didn"t have too many shots in the first and then they got a power play goal. They played an okay game, I played an okay game and it is not enough.
"We need to find a way to win these games, we keep losing and we need to do something about it. I don"t think there is any secret, you just need to work hard and keep practicing and hopefully it will come."
Jonas Hiller made 17 saves tonight against the Kings, a relatively easy night for the 26-year old goaltender. Hiller made 29 saves in the Ducks' 2-0 victory over the Kings on Nov. 16 in the teams' most recent meeting.
The Kings held the Ducks without a shot for over 13 minutes in the first period, after which Ersberg stopped three of four to close out the period. Bobby Ryan lit the lamp for the Ducks seven seconds into Drew Doughty"s penalty for cross-checking Travis Moen. Ryan entered the game leading all NHL rookies with .95 goals per game.
Due to penalties taken by Scott Niedermayer and Samuel Pahlsson at the end of the first period for hooking and tripping, respectively, the Kings started the second period on the power play and the Kings took advantage, scoring with 16 seconds left on the two-man advantage, with assists from Anze Kopitar and Jarrett Stoll. Before Quincey"s goal, the Kings had gone 142:66 without scoring against Anaheim, falling 1-0 in OT on Nov. 4 and 2-0 on Nov. 16. The Kings last scored during a 6-3 win on Oct. 14.
Without the benefit of right wing Corey Perry, suspended four games for elbowing on Jan. 2 against Philadelphia, the Ducks struggled on offense but managed 26 shots and converted two of five power plays before a sellout crowd of 17,174. Center Ryan Getzlaf had several breakaway opportunities and scoring chances but failed to score on all of them, including fumbling a pass from Ryan with an open net four minutes into the second period.
Brian Boyle, playing in his second game since being recalled from Manchester on Jan. 1, was perfect in the faceoff circle, winning all four of his attempts. Kings defenseman Sean O"Donnell, a veteran of both hockey clubs, logged 20:58 in time on ice against his former team.
Five minutes into the third period, Honda Center erupted into cheers at what appeared to be a Ducks goal, but they were in vain as Chris Pronger had beaten Ersberg by punching the puck into the net with his glove. The crowd got what they were looking for at 9:45 when Samuel Pahlsson lit the lamp for Anaheim on a 5-on-3 off a pass from Scott Niedermayer, which turned out to be the game winner. Doughty was in the box for a delay of game penalty after he sent the puck sailing over the glass.
"It put us down 5 on 3 and that is just unfortunate," said Kings coach Terry Murray of Doughty"s penalty. "The puck got too far ahead of him and he just wanted to clear it to the far end of the ice but it was probably six or eight inches too far ahead of him and he got a lot of air under it. It was one of those plays that happens unfortunately. In their power play they took advantage of their opportunities."
Doughty was contrite about his penalty, but felt that the team needs to step up their production.
"We are pretty unsatisfied with the game today," Doughty said. "We had a great opportunity going into the game tonight, they don"t have their whole lineup and our conference is so close and we are battling for a playoff position. So we can"t be satisfied just being in these games, we have to want to win these games."
The Kings are now 16-17-6 on the year for 38 points and fifth place in the Pacific Division, while Anaheim improved to 21-15-5 with 47 points and second in the division. The Kings still have only two wins this season when their opponent scores first, once against Anaheim on Oct. 14 and the other Saturday night against the Flyers. While currently five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, the team aspires to reach that mark and beyond in the second half of the season.
"We are in a situation as the LA Kings where we need to win games right now," said Murray. "We are kind of staying close to the pack but we have got to get some wins under our belt and the composure and dealing with the moment is a lesson we have to take away from this.
"It"s the way it is for us for the rest of this year, we have got to have a playoff like mentality going into every game and deal with the pressure, deal with that kind of expectation. As a young hockey club I think we will take strides in that area. We have to be better at it right away and win some games."
The Kings play the Ducks again at STAPLES Center Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., a matchup the Kings need to win in order to work on their uphill climb towards the playoffs.
"We are not happy to be where we are," said Doughty. "We know we are a young team, but we also know that we have a good team. We are a great bunch of guys, with some great veteran players and some great young players, so we are pretty unsatisfied with our play this season. We are happy that we are doing better than we were last year but we all know that we should be in a playoff position. We have the team here to do that, and going into this next half of the season we are really going to have to step it up and make that spot ours."
Anaheim Coach Randy Carlyle:
[re: Samuel Pahlsson"s presence on the power play]:
"We"ve changed up the power play a little bit with Samuel Pahlsson out there. It actually was a fluke. Getzlaf got a five minute major in Vancouver. I think we were down 3-0 at the time. We had a four-minute power play, one 5-on-3 and a full two minutes. Sammy went to the front of the net and took the offensive zone faceoffs on the two goals that we scored on the power play. So, it wasn"t really rocket science to go back to it. If he continues to win faceoffs and goes to the front of the net and we execute at that level, it"s going to be hard to move him out of that position"
[re: Jonas Hiller]:
"With Jonas, any time a goalie pitches you a shutout, why fix it if it isn"t broken" Tonight, he didn"t have that much work, but he was called on to make some big stops at critical times."
Anaheim defenseman Scott Neidermayer:
"It"s nice to see a guy get an opportunity. He does a lot of tough work that isn"t all the glory. Now he is out there on the power play. It"s nice to see him get rewarded with a goal. Hes a gifte player, has a great wrist shot and is a big, strong guy."
Kings coach Terry Murray
[re: Kings losing composure]
"We played against a good team, they are a good checking team. I think composure would have helped find people on breakouts with puck possession rather than flipping it out or turning it over in the neutral zone. The composure is not just the movement of the puck, its continuing to play with structure, play with your system, play together, come together as five guys and we broke away from that. Its inexperience. It"s all what [the Ducks] do well, because they have been there, they have been to the top of the mountain. They know how to do it, their top guys have done it in the past and their top guys stood out again tonight."
[re: low shots on goal for Kings]:
"Neither team had a lot going on in the offensive part of the game. There were not a lot of pucks put to the net. Going into the third period it was a 1-1 game and I don"t know what we ended up with, maybe three shots ourselves and they had maybe a couple more. So there wasn"t a whole lot happening, both teams came out with a checking mindset and did a good job against the top lines. The opportunities that we had in the third period were either blocked or hit sticks or hit shin pads or shot it into the corner- we just couldn"t get things through. They did a good job of shutting us down."
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty
[re: loss to Anaheim despite missing players]:
"We have to keep on working harder. We have great goaltending back there, great defense and great forwards. We have been doing our job, we just need to do it better and get pucks in the net. Our power play is something we definitely have to step up a notch. We have to go into practice tomorrow, work hard on everything and then come back Thursday and win the game."
Kings goalie Erik Ersberg
[re: scoring drought by top players]:
"Everybody has got to get into the game, you can"t just count on one guy, or two guys or three guys. We are a team so we win as a team and lose as a team. It was a tight game. If we can only let in two goals we will win at least a couple games, that"s for sure. We gotta score on the other side and I need to stop the puck. You have to look at it both ways. "
The Kings are now 1-2-1 against the Ducks on the season" Kings left wing Kyle Calder celebrated his 30th birthday yesterday"16 years ago today Wayne Gretzky played in his 1,000th NHL game (Today in Kings History).
Compiled by Melody Huskey