For one night, the Kings looked like they had been to finishing school.
The same players getting the same chances and coming up empty have frustrated Coach Andy Murray this season. He finally got a little relief when the Kings capitalized on opportunities in a 4-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks in front of an announced 13,916 at Staples Center Thursday.
Glen Murray scored two goals, one into an empty net, as the Kings got their first home win in four tries by finally shaking a fatigued Duck team that was playing its second game in as many nights. The four-goal outburst lightened Andy Murray's concerns.
"It's not that we're missing guys, it's the people we have who are missing," Murray said. "It's not a tactical thing. We're not asking anyone to do anything different than we have the last two seasons when we were one of the high scoring teams in the league. We have guys in slumps at the same time."
The Ducks' Steve Rucchin was called for holding at 10 minutes 50 seconds of the third period. The Kings buzzed the net without success, and Eric Belanger hit the post before Glen Murray redirected a Ziggy Palffy shot to break a 1-1 tie at 12:10.
A little more than a minute later, Belanger centered a pass that deflected off Steve Heinz's skate and past Duck goalie Steve Shields. By hook or crook, it was Heinz's fourth goal this season and his 300th NHL point.
Glen Murray then scored into an open net with 38 seconds left.
It was an offensive bonanza from a team that had scored 14 goals in its six previous games--six of which came in the Kings' only other victory this season.
"You look at our statistic and we really should be scoring more," Andy Murray said.
Yet for most of the night, the Kings and Ducks exchanged blows in a physical game that became chippy at times. The Kings and Ducks have the proximity that would seem to encourage a rivalry, and some have those feelings.
"This is a chance for the Ducks to play in front of a full house," Andy Murray said, referring to Anaheim's attendance woes.
A significantly empty Staples Center didn't exactly live up to that. Still....
"For hockey fans in Southern California, you are either a King fan or a Duck fan, unless you're a [Detroit] Red Wings' fan," Murray said. "Before we can be the best in the NHL, we have to be the best in Southern California."
There are several levels in between, of course. But the Kings and Ducks have to start somewhere. Both have struggled to score goals at times this season and that continued Thursday.
The Ducks gritted out a 2-2 tie with the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. So it was understandable that they were a little sluggish and had only seven shots through the first 30 minutes.
They wasted two big power-play opportunities. Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei appeared to cross-check Adam Deadmarsh's face into the boards in the first period. Deadmarsh retaliated and was called for a double-minor. The Ducks got off one shot on goal during the four-minute penalty.
In the third period, Kelly Buchberger was called for a double-minor. Again the Ducks got off one shot.
The have converted one of 13 power plays in the last two games.
"We need to crash the net more and get some deflections,"Jeff Friesen said after the Boston game.
What helped keep the Ducks in the game was strong play from their third line, particularly from German Titov, who was a $4.6-million statue last season.
Titov, a bust as the Ducks' marquee free agent last season, was active and effective. He got off three shots in the second period. He had three shots in the team's first seven games.
The Ducks trailed, 1-0, midway through the second when Titov took a pass from Niclas Havelid at the King blue line. He split King defenseman Aaron Miller and Jaroslav Modry and zeroed in on goalie Felix Potvin before tucking a shot into the right-hand side.
It was the only goal Potvin allowed, as he made 23 saves. The one goal almost was enough.
"We have been creating chances," Andy Murray said. "It we were not creating, that would be one thing."
Shields was solid in net again, making 23 saves, two on point-blank chips by Belanger during a third-period power play.
Palffy missed an easy chance six minutes into the second period. Jozef Stumpel slipped a pass from behind the net to an open Palffy, who flicked a shot that Shields managed to get a pad on.
"We're getting the opportunities," Murray said.
Smolinski capitalized on one in the first period. Deadmarsh picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fed a cross-ice pass to Smolinski, who charged in alone. He fired a shot that went off Shields' glove and into the net for a 1-0 lead 18:36 into the first period.