Never has a victory in December been so important to Bruce Boudreau as the Ducks' dramatic 3-2 triumph over the Kings Tuesday at Honda Center.
In each of his first two games since he replaced Randy Carlyle as the Ducks' coach his team built and squandered a 2-0 lead and lost. The Ducks followed that pattern Tuesday until a shot by Bobby Ryan following a faceoff in the Kings' zone caromed off defenseman Drew Doughty and popped beyond the reach of Jonathan Quick with 48.8 seconds left.
"It's not the Cup," Boudreau said, "but it felt pretty good, there's no doubt."
Ryan's second goal of the game held up for the Ducks' fourth win in 22 games and a memorable first win for Boudreau. "Had it gone the other way after another lead like that, I was a little worried about it," Boudreau said. "We got a lucky break but they got a lucky break."
The Kings did get a fortunate bounce on their second goal. A clearing pass by Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler hit a stanchion and came back into the zone to Justin Williams, who passed to Jarret Stoll and scored off the return pass at 8:50 of the third, Williams' first goal in 18 games. Given their inability to score, the Kings will take any break they can get: They've produced only 14 goals in their last eight games and rank 29th in the NHL with 62 goals, a disappointing performance.
Quick, the good team player, said he doesn't feel pressured knowing he will have to make two goals stand up.
"I know these guys can score. Teams go through this, ups and downs," he said. "We've got guys that can put the puck in the net. There's not a doubt in this locker room that we're going to do it."
They just haven't done it yet. If they will at all.
The Ducks got energy from the newly formed line of Ryan, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne as Ryan recorded his first game-winning goal this season. Ryan said the Ducks were determined Tuesday not to let this game slip away like so many others have and added that captain Ryan Getzlaf enforced that with a few choice words.
"It's tough not to get down on yourself. We've been through it so many times," Ryan said. "We've given up leads so many times and really we did it again tonight. Bruce behind the bench did a good job of telling guys, 'Let's move forward. We're not going to be beat tonight.' That confidence is instilled in us."
The Ducks scored at 7:59 of the first period thanks to a misplay by Quick. He went behind his net to play the puck and tried to pass to Rob Scuderi along the left-wing boards, but Selanne intercepted the puck and threw it toward the slot. It deflected off Kings center Anze Kopitar and to Ryan, who beat Doughty to the puck and had an empty left side of the net.
They expanded that lead to 2-0 on a vintage combination between Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf outworked Colin Fraser to win the puck and threw it in front to Perry, who got behind Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and redirected it past Quick at 17:37.
The Kings cut that to 2-1 late in the second period. Kopitar made it happen with sheer determination going to the net. The puck came out to the left side, where Dustin Penner controlled it and made a fine pass through the crease to Voynov, who was open on the right side of the slot.
Stoll said the Kings were aware of the Ducks' recent woes and hoped to prey on their shakiness. "We knew that they were struggling to hold onto leads. That first goal for us at end of the second was huge to get us going, get us energized between periods. We needed that to get going … then you see them sit back."
Williams tied it at 2-2 at 8:50 of the third period, part of a 23-8 shots barrage by the Kings. But Ryan's bounce gave the Ducks the last laugh. And first win for Boudreau.
"It's a whole different feeling coming into this room tonight," Ryan said. "It's huge."
Not Stanley Cup huge, but memorable nonetheless.