The Los Angeles Kings gave new coach Darryl Sutter a few early scares before delivering him a triumphant welcome with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.
In Sutter’s first game in charge, the Kings came from a goal down to lead 2-1 and then, after conceding an equalizer late in the third period, inflicted a fourth successive loss on their struggling division rivals.
Kings captain Dustin Brown scored the decisive goal in the shootout to improve his team’s record to 16-14-4, but still below the cutoff line for the playoffs in the 15-team Western Conference with the season approaching its midway point.
“Hard-fought game,” Sutter told reporters just two days after replacing interim Kings coach John Stevens. “I thought we had a good start, we did a lot of good things. I liked the way our forwards played, really good in all three zones. That’s what we’re trying to do. I think we moved the puck pretty good.”
Sutter last coached in the NHL with the Calgary Flames, but stepped down from that role in 2006 to focus on being the team’s general manager, a position he vacated a year ago.
Asked how it felt to be back in charge as a coach, he said: “I’ve been pretty focused all day, didn’t really think about it. I was thinking more about how you use your players.”
“Nothing like game day, I’ve always said that. Even when I was sitting upstairs, game day was still the best,” he added.
The Ducks opened the scoring against the run of play when left wing Niklas Hagman tipped in a shot by Lubomir Visnovsky 13 minutes, 55 seconds into the second period.
The Kings responded soon after when center Mike Richards, back in action after missing eight games because of a head injury, deflected a long-range blast by Drew Doughty at 16 minutes, 17 seconds to record a team-high 12th goal of the season.
Roared on by a sellout crowd of 18,118 at the Staples Center, the Kings went 2-1 up midway through the third when Brown scored with a wrist shot off an assist from center Anze Kopitar.
The Kings twice came close to adding a third before Visnovsky made it 2-2 when he fired a shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with three minutes left in regulation.
Neither side could break the deadlock after five minutes of overtime, but center Jarret Stoll, whose goal was canceled out by Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne, and Brown each scored in the shootout to earn the Kings a nerve-jangling win.