ANAHEIM, Calif. – One of the more puzzling trends for the Los Angeles Kings this season is the lack of 5-on-5 offense: The Kings are among the NHL's worst teams in that category despite the offseason additions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.
So L.A. got creative on Thursday night.
The Kings got two shorthanded goals, another on the power play from promising rookie defenseman Slava Voynov and the game-winner from star center Anze Kopitar for a 5-3 victory against the crosstown rival Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
Kopitar scored on a backhand wraparound with 3:01 remaining, and Richards sealed it with his second goal of the game – a 150-foot shorthanded empty-netter after Anaheim pulled goalie Dan Ellis.
It was only the fourth time this season L.A. scored five goals.
"That's what our team was working on all summer," Kopitar said of the balanced attack. "Mike chipped in twice tonight and Simon (Gagne) made a couple of really nice plays. It's the scoring we need, the secondary scoring. Even though sometimes we (the top six forwards) don't score any goals, we still get production from other guys, and that's when you win games."
L.A. won its third in a row and swept the home-and-home series to move into first place in the Pacific Division with 23 points, one more than San Jose and Dallas. The Ducks fell to 2-8-4 in their past 14 games.
The Kings aren't really paying much attention to the standings this early, but they are feeling better about themselves.
"I think it's just a real good team effort," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "We felt we were maybe playing 40-45 minutes over the last five or six games. That's not enough to win in this league.
"I thought the last few games was really not a team effort. We were really talking about a lot in the locker room – ‘Play the right way. Play the right way.' I think we're seeing the results now."
Anaheim tied it at 3-3 on Andrew Cogliano's second goal of the game, a deflection of Luca Sbisa's point shot with 6:25 left in regulation. Corey Perry had made it a one-goal game with 11:16 to go by whacking Ryan Getzlaf's rebound in the crease between Jonathan Quick's pads.
After a power failure delayed the start of the third period by 17 minutes, Voynov's power play goal at 2:45 gave the Kings a 3-1 lead.
It was Voynov's third goal in seven games. The young Russian is showing tremendous poise during his call-ups in place of Drew Doughty last month and Alec Martinez this week.
"He's playing great right now," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "He's very confident. He's been playing well in the American (Hockey) League for a while from what we've heard. He's certainly come in and provided a big boost for us."
The Ducks gave themselves a chance by killing off a four-minute power play after Toni Lydman – who was in the box for Voynov's goal – was called for interference at 3:28 and drew an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Los Angeles took a 2-1 lead into the third period on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Gagne, who poked the puck free past Cam Fowler on the right side and outwaited Ellis with a deke to the left to score L.A.'s first shorthanded goal this season.
Combined with the empty-netter, it was the first time the Kings scored two shorthanded goals in one game since Nov. 13, 2005, against Columbus.
"Any time your special teams can come through for you it's a big boost," Scuderi said. "We thought it was a real lucky break on their power play goal (by Perry), but we thought we had pretty good PK tonight. But to come back with two PK goals was a huge boost for us."
Gagne's goal came a little more than four minutes after Anaheim was rewarded for work down in L.A.'s zone to tie it at 1.
Teemu Selanne skated from behind the goal line with Doughty on his back and turned to fire a shot from the right circle. The puck hit Saku Koivu in front and went to Cogliano, who scored into the open net at 3:19 of the second.
Richards opened the scoring with a neat backhand that snuck past Ellis' glove side 54 seconds into the second period.
That wasn't a good sign for Anaheim, whose struggles can be tied to its poor starts. The Ducks have allowed the first goal in eight of the past nine games.
"It's always tough playing from behind and we played from behind most of the night," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We got fired up in the game in the third period. We started to play with that emotion and got skating. It seems we have to get hit over the head to get to that point."
The Ducks came out with an effective forecheck in a reversal of the previous night. It had 13 shots on goal in the first period, more than in the first two periods (12) combined on Wednesday.
Anaheim got good news before the game started when Niklas Hagman obtained a work visa to make his Ducks debut, on the third line with Brandon McMillan and Devante Smith-Pelly. Anaheim claimed Hagman on re-entry waivers earlier this week in an effort to boost its 30th-ranked offense.
That doesn't mask that Anaheim is sinking fast -- the Ducks have the third-worst record in the Western Conference.
"There's some positives we take, but at the end of the day, you're not getting the points at a critical time right now," Cogliano said.
"In the Western Conference, teams are winning every night and you can't get left behind. We have to start finding ways to get two points. There's no excuses. The more you start losing games, and giving up points, it's tough to get back."