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Ducks Send Kings for a Tumble

Anaheim continues its march to the playoffs with a 4-2 win as L.A. limps to the finish.

April 09, 2006|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Chris Kunitz scored two goals Saturday, pushing the Mighty Ducks closer to clinching a Stanley Cup playoff spot, and was all grins in the upbeat dressing room afterward.

The Kings' Sean Avery didn't get off the bench in the third period, then was nowhere to be seen in the grim postgame scene.

That summed up both teams' moods after a 4-2 Duck victory at Staples Center. The Ducks were in a dressing room with a playoff view. Meanwhile, barring some bizarre miracle, the band at the first concert in Staples Center can use the Kings' dressing room after April 15 -- their last regular-season home game.

Kunitz's two goals buried the Kings, who could be eliminated by the time they step on the ice in their next game Thursday against Phoenix. They are stuck in 10th place, four points out of a Western Conference playoff spot with three games left.

"We have no confidence in our ability and no confidence that what we are doing is right," the Kings' Jeremy Roenick said. "We make too many mistakes. We are afraid of failure and doing something wrong. You have to play to win, you can't play like you're afraid to lose."

The game tape from Saturday could be a good teaching tool for the Kings. The Ducks played to win, and could clinch a playoff spot with a victory Monday over the Vancouver Canucks, a game Coach Randy Carlyle said "could be monstrous."

The Ducks scored the first goal, on a Rob Niedermayer deflection, then refused to wilt when the Kings got close.

Craig Conroy's power-play goal cut the Duck lead to 2-1, 8 minutes 15 minutes into the second period.

A mere 32 seconds later, Kunitz flipped a wrist shot from the slot that beat King goaltender Mathieu Garon. Nine minutes into the third period, Kunitz crashed the net and converted Corey Perry's slick pass from the boards for a 4-1 Duck lead.

That gave Kunitz, who was not drafted and signed as a free agent in 2003, 18 goals this season.

"He has all the tools," said Teemu Selanne, a linemate of Kunitz's. "He has speed, he hits, he has a great shot, everything. It's fun to see a guy put it all together like that. He has made our line dangerous."

Kunitz's abilities were not as appreciated in the other dressing room. After he scored a goal in the Ducks' 6-2 victory over the Kings on Jan. 28, Avery said, "We can't get outplayed by ... Kunitz and some of those players."

Kunitz said he shrugged off those comments -- "It just seemed to be one person talking," he said -- but he did seem to revel in the moment Saturday.

"Maybe there is some justice there," said Kunitz, who has three more goals than Avery this season. "One guy was doing some talking and another guy was doing some contributing."

Avery wasn't around to voice his opinion this time, having played only 5:22 during the game. Asked if Avery had been injured, interim Coach John Torchetti said, "It was a coach's decision." Asked if it was because of Avery's performance, Torchetti said, "It was a coach's decision."

There was a lot Avery could have added to the postgame comments, having been on the ice for two Duck goals.

With the Ducks on the power play already leading 1-0, Avery was unable to get the puck deep, with Ryan Getzlaf intercepting the puck in the neutral zone.

The Kings then did everything but leave breadcrumbs in getting Duck players to the net. Andy McDonald sent a pass in from the boards, where Selanne tipped the puck to Joffrey Lupul, who had an easy tap-in for a 2-0 lead.

Avery then had an up-close view when Kunitz scored his second goal. Avery didn't step on the ice again.

"We know where those comments [about Kunitz] came from," said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped 25 of 27 shots. "We pay little attention to him. We have other things to worry about."

Such as the playoffs.

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