Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar scored in the final six minutes of the third period to break a 4-4 tie, and send the Ducks to their third loss in three meetings against their Southern California rivals.
The Ducks looked as good as dead at 1:44 of the third period, when Jack Johnson scored the Kings’ fourth straight unanswered goal to make it 4-1. But Troy Bodie, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Carter put pucks past Jonathan Quick over the next eight minutes to tie the game at 4, and put the Ducks in position to gain at least a point.
Jason Blake opened the scoring with his first goal as a Duck. He capitalized on a faceoff win by Saku Koivu and precision passes from Teemu Selanne, to Koivu, to Blake in the slot, for his 11th goal of the season at 5:40 of the first period.
But after the Kings’ sudden surge, Blake found himself off the Selanne-Koivu line for the first time since arriving from Toronto.
“We were down 3-1 at the time; I didn’t like what was going on on the ice,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We had played some of those people before – we put (Matt) Beleskey with (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry before. Bobby Ryan has been with Koivu – he hasn’t been with Selanne, he’s been with (Dan) Sexton. That was really the only change.
“We think that Blake can play right wing or left wing, so we moved Carter in the middle and had (Todd) Marchant on the wing and moved Blake to the right side. It was just kind of a hunch. It wasn’t that deep of a hunch. We’ve played those guys there before.”
The hunch worked.
Getzlaf was out with Bodie and George Parros, at 3:11 of the third period, when he dug a puck out of the corner and shot a backhand to Bodie, who one-timed the puck past Quick to make it 4-2. At 5:12 Beleskey was left alone to streak through the slot, where Getzlaf found him skating in for an easy backdoor goal.
Todd Marchant did most of the hard work to set up Carter’s goal at 9:35, circling around the back of the net with the puck and finding Carter, who had a step on Kings defenseman Randy Jones, for the tap-in.
But that’s when the Ducks’ momentum ran out.
“You play a smart game the rest of the way through there, you can come away with a point or two, which we needed,” Scott Niedermayer said. “Each team definitely had momentum for different stretches, but at the end of the night, we probably made more mistakes than they did and that was probably the difference.”
James Wisniewski was credited with a defensive-zone giveaway, which allowed the Kings to take possession of the puck for the game-winning goal. He and the rest of the Ducks lost track of Brown, who was able to re-direct a juicy rebound left by Hiller with 5:32 left in the third.
Brown drew the tripping penalty on Getzlaf that set up the Kings’ sixth goal, a power-play goal with 27 seconds left in the game when Kopitar walked around Hiller for his second tally of the game.
“We’re going to face these guys soon enough, so we (have to take the positive) and take them out in the next game,” said Hiller, who stopped 25 of 31 a night after a 46-save victory against Detroit. “We almost have to win every night to stay in the race for the playoffs. We had the opportunity tonight and we weren’t able to do it.”
A win would have left the Ducks (27-24-7) one point behind Calgary and Detroit, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff position. They won’t play again until they host the Kings on Monday.