Kings win keep playoff hopes alive

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 17, 2012
Alec Martinez, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams scored first-period goals, and the Los Angeles Kings kept pace in the Western Conference playoff picture with a 4-2 victory over the fading Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. The Kings won the Freeway Faceoff series 5-1. Last season, the Ducks swept a season-ending home-and-home set with their Southern California rivals to clinch a playoff berth - marking the only time both teams made it to the postseason in the same year. This is the fifth time during the Ducks' 18-year rivalry with the Kings that they ended their season series with 10 or more games left on the schedule. Cam Fowler and defenseman Luca Sbisa scored for the Ducks, who outshot the Kings 42-19. Jonas Hiller made 19 of his 39 saves in the second period after giving up three goals on eight shots in the first. The Kings and Ducks both began this season in Europe. They both fired their head coach during a two-week span in December, and responded with impressive stretches of hockey that got them back in the Western Conference playoff race. With just three weeks left on the schedule, the Kings are among five teams separated by five points for the last two spots in the conference. But the Ducks are hopelessly out of it, nine points behind the Kings following a 3-6-1 skid. Los Angeles' penalty-killing unit was perfect in 32 short-handed situations over the previous 11 games, but the Ducks got on the board at 3:41 of the second period - just 24 seconds after Drew Doughty was sent off for holding Jason Blake. Fowler cut the Kings' lead to 3-1 with a 55-foot one-timer past Jonathan Quick, his fourth goal this season and first on the power play. The teams were skating four-on-four when Sbisa - back in the lineup after missing two games with a lower body injury - completed an end-to-end rush by converting his own rebound to make it 3-2 with 16:53 left in the third. But Mike Richards scored into an empty net in the final minute, ending a 25-game goal drought. It was only his second in his last 36 contests. The Kings scored on two of their first three shots against Hiller, who was making his club-record 31st consecutive start after beating Detroit 4-0 on Wednesday night. Martinez got a cross-ice pass from Greene just inside the blue line and beat Hiller to the stick side at 2:40 of the opening period with a screened wrist shot from the left point. Kopitar then got the puck in the neutral zone from Williams, carried it across the blue line and was forced wide by Lubomir Visnovsky before making a pinpoint 25-foot wrist shot from the left circle that found daylight between Hiller's right shoulder and the crossbar at 9:33 of the period. Reigning MVP Corey Perry, who leads Anaheim with 34 goals and six game-winners, returned to the lineup after missing two games because of an injured right shoulder and committed a sloppy turnover that led to the Kings' third goal just 7.1 seconds before intermission. Perry had the puck in the right circle of the Los Angeles zone, but fell backward and Doughty quickly took off the other way with it. He stickhandled into the Ducks' zone, then spotted Williams at the edge of the crease and set him up with a soft backhanded pass through defenseman Toni Lydman. Notes: The sellout crowd was only the seventh for the Ducks in 35 home dates at Honda Center (17,174) - while the Kings have reached capacity in 31 of 33 at Staples Center (18,118). ... Hiller is 17-9-5 during his consecutive-game streak, which began on Jan. 12 with a 1-0 overtime loss at Calgary. The Kings' record for consecutive starts by a goalie is 23, shared by Gerry Desjardins (1969-70) and Felix Potvin (2000-01). ... Anaheim is 23-18-7 under Bruce Boudreau, and Los Angeles is 19-11-8 under Darryl Sutter. ... Kopitar's goal came on his 200th shot on net this season, making him the sixth player in Kings history with at least five seasons of 200 or more shots on goal, including C Marcel Dionne (12), LW Luc Robitaille (11), D Rob Blake (7), C Bernie Nicholls (6) and C Wayne Gretzky (5). ... All of the last 10 meetings between the clubs have been decided by two goals or less. Quick has started in all of them. ... Anaheim C Andrew Cogliano played in his 400th regular-season game, and has yet to miss one since coming into the league. He has only one goal in his last 23 games since his hat trick on Jan. 31 at Phoenix. ... The Kings play their next four games at Staples Center before playing five of their final seven on the road.
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