ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA (TICKER) —The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim got rid of the demons in a game that reminded Petr Sykora of his days with the Devils.
In front of a sellout crowd at Arrowhead Pond, the Mighty Ducks blew a three-goal lead before rallying for a wild 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Kings as Sykora scored the game-winner with 3:25 remaining.
Sykora won it off one of several scrambles during the team’s highest-scoring contest this season, helping the Mighty Ducks snap a nine-game winless streak (0-5-3-1) against their crosstown rivals.
“We got rid of the demons here tonight,” said first-year Anaheim coach Mike Babcock. “Every time we play them, they think they’re gonna run us out of the building.”
The fourth meeting of the season between the Pacific Division foes reminded Sykora of a fierce rivalry he used to be involved in before being acquired from New Jersey last summer.
“It kind of reminds me how the Devils play against the Rangers,” he said. “It was a playoff type of intensity, and finally we came out on top.”
Paul Kariya scored twice in the opening 6:20 before Steve Rucchin tallied to give Anaheim a 3-0 lead after a period. Los Angeles scored four times in the second and grabbed a 5-3 lead 6:42 into the third before falling apart.
“We dug ourselves in a hole, dug ourselves out and dug right back in,” Kings goaltender Jamie Storr said. “A two-goal lead with 11 minutes left … you have to win those games.”
Sykora capped Anaheim’s comeback. Adam Oates kicked a rebound of Kariya’s shot from the low slot to the right of the crease and Sykora slid the puck past a sprawled Storr for his 17th goal.
“Paul got a shot and Oates got it to me,” Sykora said. “I got an open net. I was just trying to hit the net. I knew if it hit the net, it had a chance of being a goal. And that’s what happened.
“We kind of let it slip away there in the second, but we battled back to get the win.”
Kariya matched a season high with four points and Rucchin added two goals and an assist for the Ducks, who improved to 5-1-0-1 in their last seven games and grabbed sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference.
“Games like this can be turning points,” Rucchin said. “There’s no question about that.”
The Kings welcomed back a pair of players from their extended injured list - center Bryan Smolinski and defenseman Aaron Miller - but dropped their third straight game and fell to 3-11-0-1 in the last 15.
“Someone has to take charge, take over and turn this team around,” said Storr, whose team remained 10th in the West. “Othwerwise, this season is over. We’re (giving) away the season.”
Los Angeles looked to have given away the game early as Kariya scored at even strength and on the power play and Rucchin made it 3-0 with 2:43 left in the first period, chasing starting goalie Felix Potvin.
Ziggy Palffy gave Los Angeles its first lead with a power-play goal at 13:04 of the second and Brad Chartrand made it a two-goal advantage 6:42 into the third.
“It’s a game that we lost that we should have won,” Kings coach Andy Murray said. “Anytime you’ve got a two-goal lead in the third, you should be able to hold on.”
The Ducks started their comeback with 8:41 left when Rucchin scored just 20 seconds after Jason Allison was penalized for holding Kariya in the corner. Rucchin stuffed a puck past Storr at the left goalpost to get Anaheim within a goal.
Murray complained after Allison was called for holding and credited the goal with shifting the momentum back to the Ducks.
“We didn’t think the Ducks had anything going in the third period until that power play,” Murray said. “(The referee) made the call. We would strongly disagree, but it doesn’t matter. It’s our responsibility to kill the penalty.”
Just 65 seconds later, Marc Chouinard tied it, knocking a rebound into an open net from the bottom of the left circle for his third goal of the season.
After Sykora scored the decisive goal, Storr skated to the bench for an extra attacker and the Kings ended up with a 6-on-4 power play for the final 33 seconds, only to come up short during a shooting gallery.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere allowed five goals on 22 shots but made a key save during Los Angeles’ final power play, turning aside Palffy’s slap shot from the top of the right circle before surviving a scramble in front.
“Jiggy’s been there for us,” Babcock said. “He made a big save there at the end. He’s our guy.”