LOS ANGELES -- One of the few bright spots for the Kings this season has been their penalty-kill unit.
They came into Thursday’s game against the visiting Ducks ranked sixth in the league against the power play and then flexed their muscles during the most critical two minutes of the game, snuffing out a 4-on-3 in overtime that allowed the Kings to escape with a 3-2 shootout victory at Staples Center.
“That was big,” said Kings center Mike Richards. “At one point, three guys were going down to block a shot. That’s the type of desperation that we need to have success.”
After defenseman Drew Doughty was called for holding Ducks winger Bobby Ryan as he drove to the net with 3:05 left in the five-minute overtime, Anaheim called timeout to design a play.
Richards, who had missed the previous eight games because of a concussion, was on the first penalty-kill unit with defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. They faced off against forwards Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
“Do or die right there,” Greene said.
The Ducks had a couple of good looks on crosses through the front of the net, but the Kings’ trio managed to clear the puck twice before giving way to teammates Rob Scuderi, Jarret Stoll and Jack Johnson, who also teamed with goalie Jonathan Quick to keep the puck out of their net.
“I thought it was a great response by the group,” Scuderi said. “We’ve had a good penalty kill all year, back-boned by our goaltending.”
Over on the Ducks bench, it felt like another missed opportunity.
“I thought for sure, when we got that power play in the overtime, that it was going to happen,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “The play we drew it up there was the first one and it was a near miss. What I couldn’t understand is why they didn’t go back and try it again because the play was open.”
Getzlaf said the Ducks needed to do a better job of shooting at the goal rather than trying to make the perfect pass.
“We have to do a little bit of a better job next time at throwing some pucks on net and getting them moving a little bit before we do things,” he said. “We set up things and we executed them the way we wanted to, we just didn’t put them in the net.”
The Kings killed two other power plays during the game and have wiped out 56 of their last 59 penalty-kill opportunities. Stuck on two goals or fewer the last 13 games, the Kings need to be extra diligent on defense and they came through against the Ducks, none more critical than during the overtime power play.
“It has been well noted that we haven’t scored a ton of goals,” said Richards, who scored his team-high 12th goal of the season in the second period. “We don’t need to score a lot, we just need to keep them off the board and have guys sacrifice and block shots and digging down in tough situations, like it was there [on the 4-on-3].”