ANAHEIM, Calif. - Anze Kopitar scored with 55.1 seconds remaining and the Los Angeles Kings rallied for a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Kopitar got John Gibson to overcommit and scored on a backhand before barrelling into the empty net. It was his 997th career point.
Lias Andersson also had a goal and Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the Kings, who trail St. Louis by eight points for the final playoff spot in the West Division with eight games remaining.
“It felt good, maybe the last 10 minutes of the third period. I don’t think our second and first periods were the greatest periods in the world, but we’ll take the win,” Kopitar said.
Haydn Fleury scored, Gibson made 23 saves and the Ducks have gone 23 straight home games without winning in regulation.
“The guys played hard, they played for each other, but obviously not the outcome that we want. And it hurts even worse when you play a game like that and you lose,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said.
Andersson tied it up 1-all at 14:56 of the third period by burying a shot into an open net off Gabriel Vilardi’s backhand pass between his legs, but it was a classic Quick performance that kept the Kings in it until their offence finally emerged.
Quick, who has seen his workload reduced in favour of 26-year-old Cal Petersen, was at his Stanley Cup-winning best with sprawling saves against Max Comtois in the first and Rickard Rakell in the second.
“I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to see that he was the reason we were still in the game. He was outstanding,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “He was our saviour for two periods and I think he was the motivator in the third because (I was) really disappointed in a lot of players up until the third.”
Fleury put Anaheim ahead 1-0 at 5:37 of the first with a slap-shot blast off Trevor Zegras’ face-off win. It was the first goal in eight games as a Duck for Fleury, who was acquired from Carolina at the trade deadline, and he has points in consecutive games after picking up an assist in the 3-2 win over the Kings on Wednesday.
It was the 20th time Anaheim was held to one goal or fewer, which was all the more frustrating for Eakins after a vibrant offensive performance, especially from its struggling power play.
“It was just chance after chance after chance,” Eakins said. “We can obviously focus on the couple of mistakes late, but I think we had close to 12 or 13 chances in the second period. And we’ve got to bury one or two of those. That to me is the big difference in the game. You want to clean it up late with a 1-0 lead, but I’d much rather be rolling into that third period with a three or four-goal lead.”
With Ducks goalie Ryan Miller set to play Saturday in what could be the final start of his illustrious 18-year career, Quick’s appearance on Friday all but ruled out two of the most decorated U.S.-born netminders sharing the ice one more time.
Quick is first among Americans in career shutouts (54), while Miller ranks second (44). Miller is first among Americans in save percentage (.914) and wins (390), while Quick ranks second (.913) and fourth (335) in those categories.
VITAL FOR VILARDI
After his playing time cut over the past month and he was scratched April 7-9, Vilardi has points in consecutive games for the first time since a three-game streak March 22-29. What stood out to McLellan was the confidence required to make the pass to Andersson on the tying goal.
“He’s got to feel pretty good about making that play. I believe he can make that on a regular basis, tight areas where he uses his vision and creates like that,” McLellan said.
The Kings won for the second time when trailing after two periods. They are 2-18-2 in such games.
The Kings and Ducks will play again in Anaheim on Saturday.
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