Marian Gaborik and the Kings stole the Ducks' magic, then made their own Saturday night in a captivating Game 1 of the first freeway series of hockey.
Gaborik scored with seven seconds remaining in regulation, and again, 12:07 into overtime to lift the Kings to a 3-2 victory in the Western Conference semifinal opener at Honda Center.
Thanks to a third assist from NHL playoff points leader Anze Kopitar, Gaborik deflected in the crisp pass toward Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller's right side, the puck striking the post before it went in, spawning a wild Kings celebration.
“It was a great pass,” Gaborik said. “I just tried to tip it.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Gaborik, tied for the NHL lead with five playoff goals, produced “classic goals … you have to go to the net to score in the playoffs.”
Gaborik became the first player in playoff history to score in the final 10 seconds of regulation, then get the winner in overtime.
The reversal of fortune was striking, considering the comeback routine the top-seeded, Pacific Division-champion Ducks have been in all season. They've rallied for 28 wins.
Now they've surrendered home-ice advantage and had a victory set up by their legendary icon swiped away.
Ducks forward Teemu Selanne beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick 8:08 into the third period for a 2-1 lead.
Selanne, 43, and retiring at season's end, caught up to teammate Patrick Maroon on a drive to the net, gathered the puck and backhanded it through Quick for his first goal since March 23.
A night charged with fervent orange-towel-waving by the sellout home crowd amid chants of “Let's Go Ducks!” rose to its highest decibel following the Selanne goal.
When Gaborik struck, the smaller herd of Kings' fans roared, “Let's Go Kings!”
“It could've gone either way,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. “It's pretty painful right now, but you've got to move on. It's going to be a long series, and tonight showed that.”
As the Ducks' confidence took an unmistakable hit, the Kings' is stratospheric after a fifth consecutive win that follows their rally from a 3-0 first-round series hole to beat the San Jose Sharks in seven games.
“This is the hockey that you want to play,” Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. “This is what you play for.”
Quick, after finishing with 33 saves, said, “Fortunate to get the win. Hard-fought game and we have to get ready for another one.”
Quick was out of net before the tying goal, with the Ducks in firm defensive mode and the final seconds ticking down when Gaborik swatted in a Mike Richards shot that bounced off Hiller and escaped Ducks defenseman Bryan Allen.
“He saw me in front and just threw it there and it just kind of trickled to me, and I think I batted it out of the air,” said Gaborik, a Kings' trade-deadline acquisition from Columbus.
“I thought I got a piece of it,” said Hiller, making his first start since April 6 after helping the Ducks clinch their first-round series Sunday. “We were not strong enough, maybe a little too passive there. It's too bad. Trying not to get scored on gave them some confidence.”
The Ducks outhit the Kings 51-31 through regulation and swarmed early in the second period when injured Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr didn't return after the intermission. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played a season-high 33:06.
The Kings, in a stretch that lasted into the second period, went more than 16 minutes without a shot on goal.
The teams started their No. 1 lines, the Kings' Gaborik, Kopitar and Dustin Brown going against the Ducks' Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey.
Each figured in a first-period exchange of goals.
A hooking call on Ducks center Nick Bonino led to the Kings breaking through first on a power-play goal by Martinez 9:04 into the game
Pressure by Gaborik to Hiller's left side distracted the goalie, the puck bouncing to Martinez, who slammed it into the net.
Kopitar has scored a point in all eight playoff games.
Less than three minutes later, the Getzlaf line answered as the Hart Trophy finalist surged behind Quick, dished a pass through the goalie and defenseman Jake Muzzin, and Beleskey slapped it in.
It was Beleskey's third goal against the Kings this year. “Tough one to swallow, but that's why you play seven, we've just got to regroup quick,” Beleskey said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun