It was a special night in itself for hockey in Southern California; it was made forever memorable with a bit of magic from Marian Gaborik.
The man who Dean Lombardi hunted and acquired at the trade deadline in early March, tied the contest in the waning seconds of regulation, and shut the door on the evening’s festivities with his second career postseason overtime goal, giving the Kings a 3-2 win Saturday night at Honda Center.
This, on top of a gutsy performance from the Kings’ blue-line corps who played short with five defenseman after Robyn Regehr left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.
The Kings’ rejuvenated power play also returned to work Saturday night in Anaheim after scoring six goals against the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
On their second power play of the evening, Anze Kopitar chipped the puck low to Marian Gaborik who then fed a pinching Alec Martinez with a gorgeous, thread-the-needle type pass. Martinez pounded home Gaborik’s feed in one motion, beating Ducks’ goaltender Jonas Hiller to give the Kings a 1-0 lead 9:04 into the contest.
Martinez’s goal came on the Kings’ fifth and final shot of the first period, they would register a shot on goal in the ensuing 17 minutes of play.
Just over two minutes after Martinez opened the scoring, Anaheim answered on what was only their second shot of the evening. Jonathan Quick, who overplayed Ryan Getzlaf as the Ducks’ forward looked to set up a play, paid the price.
Getzlaf found Matt Beleskey, exposing Quick’s positioning, and Beleskey buried home the Ducks’ first goal on an open net, tying the game 1-1 with 8:19 to play in the first period.
Robyn Regehr didn’t return to the Kings’ bench for the second period, leaving the roster with just five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
Neither team could find the net in the middle frame, each club registering 10 shots on goal apiece.
Anaheim grabbed a 2-1 lead with 11:52 remaining in regulation time as Teemu Selanne beat Jonathan Quick low through the five-hole, taking advantage of poor defensive coverage from the Kings, who left Selanne unattended on the rush.
Finding themselves down 2-1 with just under a minute and a half remaining in the third period, Darryl Sutter pulled Jonathan Quick in lieu of an extra attacker.
In desperation mode as the final seconds ticked away, Marian Gaborik knocked down a Ducks clearing attempt from mid-air, and shoveled the puck back to safety low along the boards behind Anaheim’s net to Anze Kopitar.
Kopitar found Mike Richards with a pass high atop the point. Richards forced the puck back down low, and in what was a clear-cut last-ditch effort, he threw the puck to the front of the net.
Gaborik stationed himself perfectly, and poked home Richards’ pass, tying the game for the Kings with :7.0 seconds showing on the game clock.
Early in overtime, Anaheim’s Corey Perry had a golden opportunity to end the game, finding the puck on his stick as he gazed upon an open net. Alec Martinez, though, challenged Perry and blocked the shot himself, making what many could argue to be the save of the night.
Just over 12 minutes into the extra frame, Drew Doughty battled for a puck along the sideboards amidst a scrum of three other Anaheim players. He punched the puck out to Anze Kopitar who was left alone atop Anaheim’s slot, and with the time and space he had, timed a perfect pass to Marian Gaborik, who was streaking to the net, reading the play himself.
Gaborik redirected Kopitar’s pass with the angle of his blade, and it rattled between Jonas Hiller and the right post, eventually sneaking past the Ducks’ goaltender to solidify a 3-2 OT victory for the Kings.
Anze Kopitar assisted on each Kings goal Saturday night, and has registered at least one point in all eight of the Kings’ postseason games thus far. Kopitar now has 14 points (4G, 9A) in the playoffs.
Jonathan Quick was solid yet again; making 33 saves on the Ducks’ 35 shots.
The Kings will be back in Orange County for Game 2 on Monday evening at Honda Center, slated for a 7:00 PM PST puck drop.