Sunday, January 26, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings walked between the palm trees into the Dodger Stadium outfield, a beach volleyball court on their right and a Kiss performance stage to their left. A surprisingly good ice rink was straight ahead, glistening in the Hollywood night.
"We felt like rock stars," Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "That was by far the coolest feeling I've ever had playing hockey."
After all the spectacle and sensation of the NHL's first warm-weather outdoor game, Jonas Hiller and the Ducks demonstrated who's on top of this rivalry — with or without a roof.
Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey scored first-period goals, and the Ducks beat the Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
Hiller made 36 saves in his 20th career shutout as the league-leading Ducks dominated the landmark meeting of Southern California's two hockey teams under the stars in Chavez Ravine. Andrew Cogliano added an empty-net goal with 1:29 left to close this unusual chapter in the NHL's expanded slate of outdoor games.
"It's a little different playing out here, but it's nothing that threw us off," Hiller said.
The league threw a California carnival for the event: People in shorts and tank tops played Frisbee and practiced yoga between periods while skateboarders rolled past a ball hockey court featuring youth teams.
Although the temperature was 63 degrees with significant humidity when Wayne Gretzky dropped the first puck, the ice held up fairly well in the night air. The Ducks had no problems adjusting to the new sightlines and backgrounds while shutting out the Kings.
"It was maybe a little slower than some rinks, but it was smooth," Anaheim's Teemu Selanne said. "We're used to not-good ice out (West) anyway. The whole package was incredible. You don't have that many chances to play in front of 55,000 people. This was pretty high on my bucket list."
The Ducks earned their 21st victory in 24 games, beating Los Angeles for the second time in three days. The Kings lost their fifth straight game.
The Kings hosted the first official outdoor game west of the Rocky Mountains in recognition of the NHL's near half-century in Los Angeles and their rivalry with the Ducks, who joined the league two decades ago. And though this game bore little resemblance to the snowbound outdoor contests in northern climes, the excited fans and enthused players embraced this unorthodox version of pond hockey with gusto.
"I can't see any reason we shouldn't do this more," Selanne said. "The quality of hockey was great. I'm going to remember this."
The teams wore specially designed jerseys for the game, with the Kings' crown logo dominating their gray jerseys while the Ducks sported bright orange. After a day filled with fan events and celebrations of the cold-weather sport's rich California roots, Anaheim showed who's currently in charge of this rivalry.
The Ducks followed up their 2-1 victory in Thursday's rivalry meeting in Anaheim by opening a seven-point lead over Chicago atop the overall standings.
Jonathan Quick made 18 saves as the Kings matched their longest skid of an otherwise solid season. After getting a goal in the opening minutes of Thursday's loss, Los Angeles hasn't scored in 116 consecutive minutes against the Ducks.
"As for us not scoring goals, it's been a constant theme, and it's getting embarrassing," Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said. "So we need to pick up our socks, and everyone needs to get hungry around the net and score goals."
Hiller made 20 saves and stopped Anze Kopitar's penalty shot in the first period, and the Swiss netminder turned away every good scoring chance after that in his fourth shutout and 24th victory of the season.
Just 2:45 in, Perry scored the first goal in Dodger Stadium history, connecting rather easily on a rebound of Ryan Getzlaf's shot off a faceoff. Less than six minutes later, Beleskey was alone at the side of Quick's net to score on a play set up by Selanne's pass.
Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot midway through the period when Lovejoy hooked him on a breakaway, but the Kings' leading scorer couldn't do much with the puck, and Hiller stopped it.
"The experience was fun and it was exciting, playing on a stage like this in front of all those people, but it was definitely not the outcome we wanted," Kopitar said.
Cogliano had the best scoring chance of the second period, but lost the puck on a breakaway. Hiller was outstanding after struggling in his last start against Winnipeg, and Cogliano wrapped up the win in the closing seconds with his 17th goal.
NOTES: The crowd was announced at 54,099 — a number that likely made Gretzky smile. ... Despite significant public interest, the game didn't sell out until early Saturday. The NHL overpriced many tickets when they first went on sale, forcing price reductions and refunds in the sections that weren't selling. ... Perry joined Cristiano Ronaldo as the first players to score a goal in their respective sports at Dodger Stadium. Last August, Ronaldo scored Real Madrid's first goal against Everton in the stadium's first soccer game.