LOS ANGELES (AP) — Amid every disappointment in an otherwise miserable season, at least the Los Angeles Kings rule the Freeway Faceoff.
Captain Anze Kopitar scored the only goal in the shootout, and the Kings beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on Saturday night for their third win this season over their local rivals.
Carter Rowney put the Ducks ahead with a short-handed goal midway through the third period, but Carl Grundstrom tied it for the Kings with 3:53 left in regulation.
Kopitar then made a one-handed drag move to beat Ryan Miller in the second round of the shootout, and Jonathan Quick stopped all three Ducks shooters.
Although the Kings are likely to finish in last place in the Western Conference, they’ve already won the season series against their rivals for the first time since 2012-13, with one more meeting still to come on April 5.
A 15th-place team beating a 14th-place team typically wouldn’t be much cause for celebration, but the Staples Center crowd relished a rare chance to cheer.
“Yeah, I think there is a little bit of extra buzz in the building when we play them,” Kopitar said. “So to get out on top, it feels good.”
Kyle Clifford and Jeff Carter also scored for the Kings, who have won back-to-back games after losing 16 of their previous 18. Quick made 17 saves for Los Angeles.
Cam Fowler and Rickard Rakell also scored, while Miller stopped 26 shots for the Ducks, who avoided official playoff elimination by earning a point. Anaheim had won seven of its previous 11, but got off to a slow start on tired legs in its third game in four nights.
“We have a good feeling within the team and a good structure, but there’s not too many games left,” Rakell said.
The 140th Freeway Faceoff carried little of the past editions’ stakes or tension. Southern California’s NHL teams are the dregs of their conference, and they will miss the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 2004.
Los Angeles and Anaheim have made a precipitous tandem decline after an exceptional seven-year stretch from 2011-18 in which the Kings won two Stanley Cup championships and made three Western Conference finals, while the Ducks won five straight Pacific Division titles and made two conference finals.
“It is a good rivalry,” said Kings coach Willie Desjardins, who has never lost to Anaheim. “Both teams have had a lot of history and a lot of pride, and whenever they play, as the game goes on it definitely gets more heated.”
Carter put the Kings ahead 2-1 late in the second period, scoring his 12th goal. Late in the least productive season of his 14-year NHL career, the 34-year-old Carter has scored goals in back-to-back games after playing 20 without a goal since Jan. 15.
Rakell tied it in the final second of the period when he popped the puck into the air and swatted it home on an exceptional play that began behind the Kings’ net. Rakell’s goal-scoring struggles were a major factor in Anaheim’s midseason collapse, but the former All-Star is finishing strong with 11 points in 12 games.
Rowney put the Ducks ahead in the opening moments of a Los Angeles power play on a pass from Derek Grant, who jumped on Drew Doughty‘s turnover. Los Angeles evened it when Tyler Toffoli carried the puck in on Miller and Grundstrom tapped it in.
NOTES: Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and forward Nick Ritchie sat out with upper-body injuries. … LA hadn’t won back-to-back games since Feb. 5-7. … Ilya Kovalchuk and Dion Phaneuf were healthy scratches for the Kings. Kovalchuk is frustrated by his lack of consistent ice time, but the Russian star says he is determined to live up to the three-year contract he signed with the Kings last year. … Kings F Brendan Leipsic sat out with a lower-body injury that will keep him out for “a few days,” coach Willie Desjardins said Friday. … Ducks D Jacob Larsson missed his third straight game with a charley horse.
Ducks: At Canucks on Tuesday night.
Kings: At Flames on Monday night.
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