Battle for Southern California Supremacy Heating Up After Ducks Grab Game 3

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistMay 9, 2014

Harry How/Getty Images

Along with their usual deficit in fashion thanks to their hideous uniforms, the Anaheim Ducks came into Staples Center on Thursday night with a much bigger problem: a 2-0 series deficit to the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks could have looked at their cross-the-405-and-105 intrastate rivals for 3-0 comeback inspiration, but what would the odds of that have been with the way Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been playing?

The desperate Ducks didn’t want to find out and won’t now after their gritty 3-2 win over the Kings in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Or, as Cam Cole of the National Post put it, "The big worry has been put to rest for now."

Speaking of long odds, who had Ben Lovejoy in the game-winning goal pool?

Coming into the contest with nine goals in 208 career regular-season games and one in 24 playoff games, Lovejoy channeled his inner Brett Hull with a wicked top-shelf wrister for a 3-1 lead.

Replacement goalie Jonas Hiller would need that cushion after Mike Richards channeled his inner Pete Rose and batted a puck in from midair with 31 seconds left—right after Corey Perry missed an empty net because his stick broke in half from too much torque.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

In Concord, New Hampshire, where Lovejoy is from, they would have called it a wicked “wristah” on his "game-winnah."

The Ducks deserved this one. They brought their attitude with them. You only needed to see Drew Doughty sent backside-over-tea-kettle, into the bench on a big hit from Matt Beleskey, to gather that. You only needed to see how hungrily the Ducks counter-attacked following too much dipsy-doodling from Doughty and Lovejoy’s subsequent winner to gather that.

Seven seconds. That is the difference separating the Ducks from being up 2-1 instead of down still. Call this one a huge character win for Bruce Boudreau’s club, therefore, after blowing Game 1 with that late, late third-period lead, then losing Game 2.

“There was a lot of pressure, but we believe in this group. We’re a very confident group,” Ducks forward Patrick Maroon told NBC’s Brian Engblom after the win. “I think we can do it again Saturday night.”

Said Lovejoy to reporters: "It plants a seed of doubt. That was our goal tonight. We wanted to come out with a 60-minute effort which we absolutely did. We played a smart game tonight. That’s what we need to do against a real solid team like the Kings."

Maroon helped get his team off to a good start with a nice assist on a Perry goal early in the first. Jeff Carter would tie it with a similar goal (shot from the slot), but Ponce De Leon, otherwise known as Teemu Selanne, finished off a two-on-one rush with Nick Bonino with 4:50 left in the second period to get the lead back. Before the game, the 43-year-old Selanne told NBC he thought it would be a “fun night” for his team, and it finished that way. But there is something new to worry about, besides the fact the Ducks are still down in the series.

Goalie Frederik Andersen bent his right knee backward with just under 10 minutes left and had to leave in favor of Hiller. Andersen had played great until that point, but his status looks in jeopardy for the short term. Maybe it’s not a big deal, as Hiller was the No. 1 guy most of the season—and he played well in relief, Richards’ goal notwithstanding. But having the superb rookie Andersen around was a nice thing for Boudreau, who made a gut decision to start him over Hiller.

My favorite factoid of the night, courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame journalist Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times:

Hampus Lindholm hadn’t been born during Selanne’s second year in the NHL, and they are now teammates. You can say it, but you can’t quite wrap your brain around that.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Game 4 is going to be fun. These organizations truly hate each other. You still have to like the Kings, with Quick still playing well (and he was very good Thursday).

The Kings didn’t get much from Anze Kopitar in this one, which I expect to be rectified Saturday. They were also a bit sloppy with the puck, and it helped lead to two Ducks goals. Doughty turned the puck over on the last one, and Alec Martinez had his pocket picked by Bonino leading to the second Ducks marker.

"We made some turnovers that cost us," said the Kings' Carter to reporters. "We were pretty sloppy in the neutral zone and turned pucks over and getting rushes the other way, that’s something we didn’t do the first two games, so we have to clean that up. We have to be hard on pucks, make strong plays and get pucks deep."

Darryl Sutter no doubt will use a few multi-syllabic words to impress upon his skaters to knock that off. Boudreau no doubt will not be at a loss for words to his group before Saturday's opening puck drop. It's a shame we have to wait 48 hours to see it.


Adrian Dater has covered the NHL for The Denver Post since 1995. Follow him on Twitter @Adater