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HELENE ELLIOTT

They're still birds of a feather

Dustin Penner left Ducks after winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, but he still has a bond with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

March 19, 2011|Helene Elliott
  • Dustin Penner, left, Ryan Getzlaf, center, and Corey Perry celebrate after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Dustin Penner, left, Ryan Getzlaf, center, and Corey Perry celebrate after… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

They will always have this memory, this moment.

Frozen by a camera minutes after the Ducks had won the Stanley Cup in 2007, Dustin Penner, bearded and smiling, holds the iconic trophy by the barrel. Ryan Getzlaf is beside him, mouth open in mid-scream. Getzlaf's right arm encircles Penner and his left arm is around Corey Perry, also screaming as he clutches the Cup by the bowl and helps hold it above their championship-capped heads.

Together they navigated the Ducks' developmental system, broke into the NHL, won the sport's ultimate prize as the Kid Line. Getzlaf and Perry, delivering on the promise that made them first-round draft picks, were 22. Penner, discovered after he'd gone undrafted and still considered a project, was 24.

They thought everything would be like it was that day, sharing the puck and boundless success as a trio.

"When that season ended, you didn't think it would be one of the last times that you'd see Dustin," Perry said. "You think you'd get to play with him for a while."

A month after a camera captured that photo — now displayed outside the Ducks' locker room — Penner signed a five-year, $21.25-million free-agent offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks, squeezed by salary-cap restrictions, couldn't match the offer.

Penner returned to Southern California last month when the Kings acquired him from Edmonton for a prospect and draft picks. Playing against his old linemates for the first time as a King and both teams enmeshed in a ferocious playoff scramble the Ducks earned a crucial 2-1 victory over the Kings when Perry beat Jonathan Quick from the top of the right circle 1 minute and 32 seconds into overtime.

Brandon McMillan's first-period goal for the Ducks was matched by Dustin Brown's backdoor-play score for the Kings at 11:04 of the third period off a backhand pass from Michal[cq] Handzus. Ray 25 saves for the Ducks, who moved up to ninth in the West.

Penner, who scored 93 goals for the Oilers in three-plus seasons, has fit in well on the first line for the Kings, who stood fifth in the Western Conference. Four points behind were the 10th-place Ducks, led by Perry — who had a career-best 36 goals and ranked among the NHL's scoring leaders with 75 points — and team captain Getzlaf.

The teams' rivalry has never been more intense, but the trio's friendship survives.

"That will never go away," Penner said. "The bonds that you make winning a Cup I think will last forever."

He recalled the elation that illuminated his smile in that photo.

"That's still to this day one of the most amazing feelings and tough to pinpoint exactly how you feel at that moment," he said. "The whole season was a grind. You went through ups and downs the whole year and a lot of things had to line up for us to get to that point, but it was such a great feeling about relief and success and accomplishment and the pride everybody had for each other in that room."

The feeling was similar for Perry.

"That was a special moment for all three of us. All the emotions running through your body, I don't even know if you really knew what was going on. It happened so fast," he said. "You dream your whole life that one day you'll get to hold it up in the air, and we had that chance and we took it all in."

But it wasn't long before Penner left. "We hoped that he wouldn't take it because we would still have him and maybe he could have gotten that contract down the road," Getzlaf said. "But there's no guarantees in our game."

Penner struggled in Edmonton, though that wasn't new. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle, who called him "a guy that you would probably not describe as a self-starter" had sometimes benched him when back-patting and the occasional butt-kick didn't work. Maturity carried Penner to a peak of 32 goals last season and 23 in 70 games this season, including two in his first 10 games with the Kings.

"He has a scoring knack and he uses his body and he uses his skill to a higher level now than he did when he was a younger player," Carlyle said.

Now he's using those skills against the Ducks.

"You never imagined that," Perry said, "but he's gone on to do things his way. He got what he wanted. He went to a contending team. You've got to give him a lot of credit for what he's done in his career so far too. It's going to be a little different, but you always wish him all the best."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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