Darryl Sutter takes in his first game as Kings coach on Thursday night at… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It says something about the rapidly shifting fortunes of the local franchises that the veteran of the Kings-Ducks rivalry has been on the job for about three weeks.
That would be Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau.
Yes, a lifetime compared to the three days since the Kings hired Darryl Sutter as their coach, assigned to revive their flagging fortunes. Sutter was 3 minutes 11 seconds away from getting a victory in regulation in his Kings debut.
Instead, he had to wait through overtime and a tense shootout for the Kings to accomplish the mission, winning, 3-2, against the Ducks on Thursday night at Staples Center with Dustin Brown clinching it. Center Mike Richards played his first game for the Kings since suffering a concussion on Dec. 1, and scored for good measure.
For Sutter, it happened to be more than 51/2 years between coaching victories.
Sutter, the coach, may have removed himself from behind the bench in the summer of 2006 in Calgary. But the inner coach never really was removed from Sutter.
He spoke about the emotions of the day and night.
"You know what, I was pretty focused all day thinking more about how you use your players," Sutter said. "I told them, you guys have to pay attention, I'll get Mike Richards and Brad Richardson mixed up."
Sutter found a new home — replacing Terry Murray who was fired on Dec. 12 — and perhaps the ideal opening foil in the Ducks. Anaheim has lost 13 straight road games, going 0-9-4.
Brown and Jarret Stoll managed to beat goalie Jonas Hiller in the shootout, and Corey Perry was the only Duck to score against Jonathan Quick. Brown's effort decided it, just the way it unfolded on Monday night in the shootout at Toronto.
That was the first game after Brown, the captain, called out his teammates after a dreadful 8-2 loss at Detroit on Saturday.
Sutter stood behind the bench with his arms folded during most of the shootout. The victory was secured when the Ducks' third shooter, Kyle Palmieri didn't score against Quick. Sutter shook hands with his assistant coaches and shared a few words with backup goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Brown had put the Kings in front at 8:02 of the third period, taking a nice drop pass from Anze Kopitar and beating Hiller with a quick, clean release to make it 2-1.
Overtime wouldn't have been necessary without the vision of Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who was an offensive catalyst all game. He assisted on Nik Hagman's second-period goal, which gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead, and tied it 2-2 with 3:11 remaining.
The new coach wasn't the only jolt for the Kings. Another major one was the return of Richards. The Kings only won twice in his absence.
There may be little doubt about what Richards means to the lineup, but if there was any such thought, it was erased in the second period. With the Ducks leading, 1-0, Richards won the draw cleanly from Ryan Getzlaf and got the puck back to defenseman Drew Doughty at the left point. Richards scored on the deflection.
Richards has 10 goals in the last 12 games he has played, and the Kings are 14-8-4 when he is in the lineup.
Doughty was asked if the new coach was the guiding motivation or if it was the need to pick up two points in the standings.
"I think it was a little bit of both," he said. "I felt really good lately, the last 15 games I played pretty much the way I did tonight. Just tonight finally I got those two assists. I haven't been getting many points lately and I need to."
One game into the Sutter Era, and Doughty delivered the early verdict.
"We all love him in here so far. He's very demanding," he said. "Very honest with us, too. He's so different from Terry.
"It's a lot of fun. More vocal. Just different. He's intimidating, almost, but at the same time he's a funny guy."