In the next installment of our Ducks Throwback series, we’ll be revisiting March 5th, 2016. The Ducks had just won ten straight games, and they were on their way to visit the LA Kings.
Looking for their franchise-best eleventh win, they would have to go through the top of the Pacific Division in their crosstown rivals. But, in order to be in this position to take over the division, they would need to have had an impressive start, right?
A Rocky Start
At the beginning of the season, the Ducks were telling a much different tale. Through the first ten games, they had a record of 1-7-2 and a losing streak of five games. Anaheim couldn’t even muster up that single victory until five games into the season. The Ducks would manage to reach .500 in wins and losses 36 games in, and would go 12-5-1 over the next 18 games.
Inching closer and closer to the top of the Pacific, a miracle would occur for Anaheim. Over the next ten games, they would tie their franchise-record best for most consecutive wins with ten victories. Over their streak, they took down five division rivals, as well as their Central division foes in the Blackhawks, and two Eastern Conference teams. Victory number eight would come against the Los Angeles Kings, and they’d have to repeat their performance to secure the eleventh win of their miraculous streak.
The 2015-2016 Kings were making their own bid to take home the division title. They started off red hot, owning a 7-3-0 record through the first ten games. They’d hold down the division for a majority of the season, but the Ducks were starting to put on some serious pressure. The Kings were on the losing side of the Freeway Faceoff that year, with a 1-2 record against their crosstown rivals, and it was a big task to even the series and take back the division.
March 5th was the third installment of the Freeway Faceoff, and it was going to be the most crucial victory of the season for both of these teams. For the Ducks, it would cap off their spectacular comeback and give them a chance to hold down the Pacific. For the Kings, it was a chance to tie up the rivalry at two games apiece, as well as a chance to keep the division for themselves.
A Close One In Los Angeles
The game itself would start off as a back and forth of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick making mind-blowing saves to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0. It also had a good share of violence, with eleven penalties coming at 6:36 into the game. Quick was unphased, however, and he continued stretching his pads the length of a brick wall. Nothing was getting past him or Andersen. Not until the start of the second period would there be a lead change. Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg would combine to laser a shot past Quick’s blocker to make the game 1-0 Ducks. It was Kesler’s 14th goal of the season, and it would be another goal to add to the long list of them he had already scored as a certified “King Killer”.
The battle would continue to stay close, but the Kings finally broke through with a power-play bid by Milan Lucic, Vincent Lecavalier, and surprisingly enough, Jonathan Quick. Quick made an incredible pass up ice all the way up to the Ducks’ blue line, and Lucic would hammer it home to give the Kings their first goal with 8:46 left in the second. It was Lucic’s 15th goal in what was already a very impressive season. The Kings had it knotted up again with a 1-1 tie.
Anaheim Breaks Through
Cam Fowler was the cause of the Kings scoring a power-play goal, and he looked to make up for it in a big way. The Ducks got their own crack at the power-play at 15:47 into the period, this time due to Tanner Pearson. From Sami Vatanen to Fowler, and then off of David Perron, who was guarding the net, the Ducks had found a way to put the puck past Quick again. This play would result in yet another change of fates, and the Ducks had the 2-1 lead. While it was David Perron’s 12th of the season, the main factor in this goal was Cam Fowler, who came up clutch in return for his earlier mistake.
With the second period in the books, the Ducks looked to seal the deal with an insurance goal in the third period, which would be made possible at 2:24 after a penalty to Vincent Lecavalier. Hampus Lindholm made a great pass to Rickard Rakell on the right side, and Silfverberg would bury the puck into the net with a deflection off of his body. It was a power-play goal combining three young talents for the Ducks, and that young talent had carried them on their comeback run to reach the top, really proving their worth. It was Jakob Silfverberg’s ninth goal of the season, and it would be the crucial goal that the Ducks were looking for. 3-1 Ducks in the third.
Battle Until the End
No Freeway Faceoff game would be complete without a little drama, however, and the Kings looked to pull back into the race with plenty of time left on the clock in the third, as well as a power-play opportunity due to Nate Thompson. Drew Doughty would blast in his 12th goal of the season thanks to Lucic and Anze Kopitar, tightening back up the game only a few minutes after the Ducks thought they’d broken it open. Everything was on the line, and the Ducks would have to try and hold a 3-2 lead for the rest of the period against a budding Kings offense.
The Kings rallied back into the game and had come so close in multiple different opportunities, including another power-play that was caused by a penalty to Josh Manson. Jeff Carter just missed a great deflection that went past the glove of Andersen, the puck rolled past the net and into the backboards. Andersen would end up the victor of this ferocious battle, and the Ducks bested the Kings yet again. 3-2 the final.
Back to Imperfection
In the end, the Ducks had their division lead for the first time that season, and they would hold it until the very end. Anaheim was crowned the Pacific Division champions for the fourth time in four consecutive years.
Although they had a very deep team, it all fell apart in a 1st Round loss to the Nashville Predators, and the Ducks were out of luck yet again. They’d begin the offseason journey to an even deeper playoff run in the year to come.
Statistics: hockey-reference.com Featured Images Pucks of a Feather, Getty Images, and Los Angeles Post-Examiner.