ANAHEIM -- Judging by the entertainment value of the series this season, this is as good a time as ever for the first Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
And this game was without Ryan Getzlaf.
Bobby Ryan, Saku Koivu and Corey Perry each scored in the shootout as Anaheim prevailed, 4-3, Sunday in front of a raucous standing-room crowd of 17,494 at Honda Center.
Perry clinched it with a wrist shot past Jonathan Bernier after Jeff Carter kept the Kings alive with a wicked backhand past Viktor Fasth. The Ducks won despite an impressive push by Los Angeles in the third period in a close, hard-fought local game that has typified the series now framed as the defending Stanley Cup champions against the Western Conference's No.2 team.
Los Angeles came back from deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2.
"They're big, they can skate, they're skilled, they're strong. What else can you say?" Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're Stanley Cup champions. And when they get down, they know how to push harder. I mean, every time we scored a goal, they came back harder. I mean they have no quit in them, which is what happens when you become a Stanley Cup champion … it's a big test for our group, because I knew [the Kings] wanted to come in here and win."
The Ducks, playing their second straight game without their captain Getzlaf, got a power-play goal from Matt Beleskey at 4:54 of the third period and appeared headed for a regulation win until the Kings' top line forged a 3-3 tie.
Dustin Brown drove to the net and batted in Anze Kopitar's rebound with 3:45 remaining. It was indicative of great desperation shown by Los Angeles, which outshot Anaheim 16-5 in the third period and 19-7 over the final 45 minutes.
Brown, Kopitar and Justin Williams combined for 13 shots on goal.
"It's frustrating because I think we deserved better," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We outplayed them. I don't think there's any doubt about that. We outshot them by a pretty big margin and we came back three times down a goal, and that shows a lot of character and how bad we want to win. It's just too bad we didn't get both."
Getzlaf was ruled out before the game with a lower-body injury. Anaheim ended an 0-for-7 slump on the power play since Getzlaf went down Wednesday when Beleskey fished out the puck from a frozen Bernier for his first career power-play goal.
Anaheim looked unorganized without Getzlaf on Friday. Boudreau said his team "wanted to prove we were capable of playing without Ryan Getzlaf."
"We needed that just for the team, just for the psyche," Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "He's a world-class player and he means so much to us. It just means that when other guys are having the opportunity to play and get in the lineup, we still have to play the same team game, and we did that tonight and got the result."
The third period was set up by two swings of momentum at the end of the second.
A wide-open Carter tied it 2-2 with a swipe of Brad Richardson's pass from the corner with 30 seconds left. It was a huge response goal 1:18 after Perry slipped behind the Kings defense to take an Andrew Cogliano stretch pass and break in to fire a wrist shot lower-left-corner on Bernier for his 23rd goal.
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter couldn't complain much after his team came back three times, and he didn't have much to say on that uncharacteristic goal allowed.
"Corey Perry scores goals, right?" Sutter said. "If you check, he wins scoring titles. If you give him breakaways … and he actually has two tonight, didn't he? [He] scored on both."
Los Angeles had just hemmed in Anaheim for a long sequence and seemed to win most of the period, starting from Doughty's third goal this season, a power-play slap shot with Carter partially screening Fasth at 5:59.
Anaheim's Kyle Palmieri opened the scoring with a drive to the net in which Bernier poke-checked the puck, only to have it bounce off Palmieri's skate into the goal at 2:54 of the first.
Neither side allowed themselves to opine on what a postseason series would be like, but it was agreed this was a playoff-type game. They combined for 71 hits. The Ducks had 23 blocked shots.
"It wasn't 1-0, or 2-1, but it was a playoff game in every sense of the word," Boudreau said. "If we can play like that or play against teams like that … at least we can compete. We know we can compete against teams like that."