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Cloutier reverses Kings' fortune

Struggling goaltender is the difference in 3-2 victory over Anaheim one day after 4-3 loss.

December 04, 2006|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The Kings have taken their lumps against the best in the Pacific Division this season and beleaguered goaltender Dan Cloutier has the bruises to show for it.

But for one night, against a rival that is towering above them and every other NHL team, Cloutier and his teammates fought back, riding another two-goal game from Alexander Frolov to a 3-2 victory over the Ducks at the Honda Center.

The Kings' performance Sunday was an impressive turnaround from Saturday's not-as-close-as-it-looked 4-3 loss to the Ducks and ended a seven-game Kings losing streak in the series as well as dealing Anaheim its third regulation loss.

The Kings are still just 2-8-1 against the Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars -- the top three teams in the Pacific. Beating the Ducks for the first time since Jan. 23 in front of the Ducks' third announced sellout of the season was a start.

"We got our 10th win tonight and you look at the standings and they've got 20," Kings Coach Marc Crawford said. "We're not chasing them, we're just trying to get ourselves back in the race."

On Sunday night, they largely had Cloutier to thank. The struggling veteran has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Kings' 10-15-4 record, having given up four or more goals in eight of his previous 16 starts.

Cloutier entered Sunday with a 3.86 goals-against average and an .862 save percentage, league-worst numbers among goalies with at least 10 starts, but he delivered the kind of game the Kings expected more of when they signed him to a two-year, $6.2-million contract extension.

The 30-year-old gave up goals only to Ryan Getzlaf and Todd Marchant and made 27 saves.

"A friend of mine [from junior hockey] once told me, 'What everyone is saying about you is none of your business,' " Cloutier said. "I only have to prove things to myself. As long as I can look at myself and be happy, then it is a good day."

Cloutier was good, especially in the third period. Nursing a one-goal lead, he stopped Marchant on a point-blank chance early in the third period.

The Ducks' Teemu Selanne, Ryan Shannon and Andy McDonald also had scoring chances that were confidently turned away by the maligned goalie. As the final horn sounded, Kings defenseman Rob Blake rushed to Cloutier and banged his stick on his leg pad.

"We have all been pulling for him," Blake said. "They had a lot of shots from the point, and he made some great saves. We needed that from him to have a chance to win."

The Ducks provided an assist by taking eight consecutive penalties over the first two periods that taxed their penalty-killing unit. As a result, they were at a 41-29 disadvantage on shots.

"You've got to give them credit," Getzlaf said. "They capitalized on their opportunities and they played well. We kind of took ourselves out of it a little bit, being undisciplined in the second there, and it kind of swung the momentum."

The Ducks' night turned more sour when Ilya Bryzgalov, who had been unavailable for five games because of a lower-body injury, appeared to injure himself while foiling a breakaway by Frolov in the third. Bryzgalov immediately waved for the training staff after making the save.

Getzlaf started the scoring with his fourth goal in five games in the first, but Frolov tied it late in the period. Derek Armstrong put the Kings ahead midway through the second when he jumped on a turnover in the Ducks' zone and put a backhander past Bryzgalov.

Cloutier then kept the Ducks at bay until Frolov got his team-leading 16th goal with 1:16 left when he beat a scrambling Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was trying to get to the bench for an extra attacker. That proved pivotal because Marchant scored with 38 seconds left.

"I didn't think that we played desperate enough until late in the hockey game," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said.

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eric.stephens@latimes.com

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