LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings took back control of the Pacific Division on Thursday.
In perhaps the biggest regular-season game in their series history with the Anaheim Ducks, the Kings started strong and closed well to inch closer to their first division title in 25 years.
Milan Lucic and Kris Versteeg scored in the opening 2:01 of the second period, and the Kings defeated the Ducks 2-1 at Staples Center.
The Kings (48-28-5, 101 points) are two points ahead of the Ducks (44-25-11) for first place in the Pacific. Los Angeles can clinch its first division title since 1990-91, when it won the Smythe Division, with a victory against the Winnipeg Jets in its regular-season finale Saturday.
Video: ANA@LAK: Versteeg gives the Kings their first lead
Anaheim has two games remaining and could match Los Angeles with 103 points, but the Kings own the first tiebreaker of most wins in regulation and overtime, 46-41.
Los Angeles, which was 3-7-4 in its previous 14 regular-season games against Anaheim, is in control of its own destiny.
"That's what you want," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "You don't want to be relying on other teams to beat other teams. We've relied on other teams before, and it didn't go so well for us. This year, we were really focused on determining our own destiny by having the chance to win again to get in and get first in our division, and we have the opportunity now."
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 19 saves for his 40th win, breaking his own Kings single-season record.
Video: ANA@LAK: Quick stones Lindholm, freezes the puck
Lucic backhanded Tanner Pearson's pass on a great stick play in the slot 48 seconds into the second period for his 20th goal.
After his deflection of Brayden McNabb's shot hit the crossbar, Versteeg tapped the puck in at 2:01 for his second goal in as many games to highlight a terrific game for the line of Versteeg, Andy Andreoff and Kyle Clifford.
The two goals were the difference in an expectedly intense game that featured Doughty swiping a loose puck out of the Los Angeles crease on an Anaheim power play in the second and Ducks goalie John Gibson's outstanding left-pad save on Anze Kopitar in the third.
"It was a big game for both teams, and everyone understands the situation for this game, and it is probably as close as you will get to a playoff game in the regular season, so it was good that we played our game," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.
Video: ANA@LAK: Schenn puts a body check on Horcoff
Ryan Kesler scored Anaheim's goal when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Jakob Silfverberg during 4-on-4 play at 16:11 of the first period. Silfverberg spun away from Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and spotted Kesler on the left side for Kesler's 21st goal.
Anaheim is banged up and often looked tired playing the first of three games in four nights.
"It wasn't as clean as we would have like it to be," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Against a team like that, that's extremely physical and creates offense from their forecheck, you have to manage the puck or you're going to be scrambling all night, and that was kind of the theme tonight."
Los Angeles dominated the opening 15 minutes, which featured several scrums and 25 hits. The Kings held the Ducks to 10 shots in the first 38 minutes.
Video: ANA@LAK: Quick makes the stop, Doughty clears rebound
"They outworked us for two periods," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You get 10 shots on goal, you're not going to have success. It wasn't the recipe that we've had when we've been in this building before."
Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen was scratched with the flu. Anaheim also was without injured forwards Brandon Pirri (upper body) and David Perron (shoulder), defenseman Kevin Bieksa (upper body), and goalie Frederik Andersen (concussion). Center Rickard Rakell is recovering from an appendectomy.
Gibson made 27 saves. He left the game for 1:11 in the third period because of an equipment issue. Backup Anton Khudobin made two saves.
Video: Quick makes 19 saves, Versteeg scores game-winner