In the fourth installment of our Ducks Throwback series, we’ll be revisiting a game from 2018 against our old friends down the street, and why it was the most critical game of the year for the 2017-2018 Ducks. But before that, we have to go back through what was a surprising season.
A Spectacular Start For Once
Throughout the summer of 2017, there was a lot of talk going around of the Ducks as possible Cup contenders, and with the addition of a legend in goaltender Ryan Miller, as well as a return for defenseman Francois Beauchemin, the Ducks were looking strong. They even got off to a better start than usual, with a 5-4-1 record after the first ten games. Surprisingly, the Ducks never dipped under .500 after the sixth game of the season. What killed the Ducks in most of their losses was overtime, considering that they lost 13 overtime/shoot-out periods by the end of the season. Still, in a very competitive Pacific Division that was being rolled by the San Jose Sharks and the new Vegas Golden Knights, they managed to stay close to the playoffs all year. By March 29th, the Ducks were in 4th place, just two points behind the third-place Los Angeles Kings. It was a crucial game for the Ducks to win if they wanted to inch closer to at least the second-place spot, but nothing would come easy here thanks to the Kings.
The Kings That Never Quit
The 2017-2018 Los Angeles Kings were making a spectacular run of their own. They went 8-1-0 in their first ten games, and after that, it was pure dominance for LA. They even dominated in the one area that the Ducks had no luck in, overtime. So, sitting two points ahead, this game between the Ducks and the Kings had a lot of weight. Not to mention, the Kings destroyed the Ducks for their first two games, and they were on a roll right before they got back into Anaheim for a then tied Freeway Faceoff.
March 30th came, and the Honda Center was packed as always for the final Freeway Faceoff game. Wall to wall were Ducks and Kings fans alike, getting ready for what was sure to be a heart-stopper. Would the Ducks start a roll to secure a playoff berth, or would the Kings stifle their efforts and kill their playoff hopes?
The Final Freeway Faceoff Begins
The Kings would start the game off by putting one in the net after the puck went over Ducks goalie John Gibson‘s shoulder. It was Drew Doughty’s 10th goal of the season, which was helped by a red hot Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. All of the Kings fans erupted, making a bid to outdo Ducks fans in their own arena. 1-0 Kings. For a long time, the Kings fans would stay loud. The Ducks offense was faltering yet again as it had done during their bad stretches over the season. No bounces, no lucky breaks, nothing. Josh Manson had a great chance in the first, but it went off of Corey Perry‘s leg. The Ducks finally got a few more chances, all of which were abruptly stopped by the quick pads (no pun intended) of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. John Gibson continued to make his usual magic, making fantastic saves right and left. The period ended with Ducks dominance, but nothing to show for it.
Ducks Find A Bit Of Luck
By the start of the second period, the tides had turned. The Kings fought hard right out of the gate, creating multiple chances for a two-goal lead. However, everything that Quick did to the Ducks, Gibson did to the Kings. At one point, Gibson made an amazing sprawling pad save through heavy traffic to block Paul LaDue, who was right in front of the net. It saved the game for Anaheim, as their fortune would finally be found. Gibson stayed on his game, and the Ducks got a jolt of energy when Josh Manson sent Kyle Clifford right down to the ice after an awe-inspiring hit. At the very end of the second, the aforementioned Francois Beauchemin sent a puck flying to the net, and after an incredible pad save by Quick, the most unlikely of heroes chopped the puck in off a bad bounce. It was Nick Ritchie, and it was his 9th goal of the season, with the assists being Beauchemin and Ondrej Kase. Finally, a 1-1 tie. The Ducks found some luck right when the second period was about to end, and what followed was excruciating.
For the third period, it was a horrible waiting game. By the halfway mark, the Ducks only had two SOG, which was another big problem for them that year. Luckily, the Kings only had three SOG as well. With only a few seconds left, the Kings would make two bids to win the game, both being absolutely robbed by John Gibson. He stopped a one on one from Anze Kopitar, and then a bullet off the stick of Tanner Pearson. The last second ticked off the clock, and the game was to be decided in overtime. It was the worst poetic justice there was for the Ducks, they had to beat their rivals in the period that killed them for the majority of the season. Would the Ducks finally breakthrough in their most important game, or would the Kings enjoy a dish best-served cold?
Rakell Calls Game
Overtime was uneventful for the first three and a half minutes. Lots of setting up finished off by bad passes. However, the Ducks and Kings would trade blows, both being swept away by Gibson and Quick. The last twenty seconds started going by fast, and it looked to be that the Ducks were doomed to repeat their terrible shootout woes, but then, hope struck. Ondrej Kase passed the puck on to a tired Brandon Montour. Seeing that the center of the ice wasn’t well guarded, he slid it over to Rickard Rakell. As Rakell skated into LA’s zone, he was guarded by three Kings skaters. It was then or never to take his lucky shot.
“Here’s Rakell. Into the zone. Pulls it in, HE SCORES! RICKARD RAKELL WINS IT IN OVERTIME! COAST TO COAST LIKE BUTTERED TOAST!” – Fox Sports West Announcer John Ahlers
The Season Rolls On
The Ducks broke a skid just in the knick of time, quite literally. The game was won 2-1, and the Ducks were just one point behind the Kings, and five behind the 2nd place San Jose Sharks. The Ducks had won the season series of the Freeway Faceoff, and they went on to win their last four games, one of which was an amazing comeback over the Colorado Avalanche. They secured second place on the final day of the regular season after the Kings and Sharks both lost, so playoffs were in the cards for Anaheim, playoffs that unfortunately ended after a four-game sweep by the Sharks. The Kings were also swept by the new team to the Pacific, the Vegas Golden Knights, who made their Cinderella run to the Cup Finals after bowling over San Jose.
Even if the year didn’t end well for the Ducks, it was still one of the most spectacular regular season performances in their history, and it all started and ended with this game against the Kings.
Statistics And Game Recap: hockey-reference.com Pictures Courtesy: nhl.com and lastwordonhockey.com