ANAHEIM, Calif. — For a team that was dead last in the Western Conference standings on Christmas night, the Anaheim Ducks are in the process of pulling off one of the more remarkable comebacks in NHL history.
Naturally, Corey Perry is leading the way.
Perry got his ninth career hat trick and the Ducks beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Sunday night to climb within two points of their Southern California rivals for the Pacific Division lead.
“It’s a huge game,” said Perry, who leads Anaheim with 26 goals after failing to get one in the season’s first 11 games. “When you’re chasing them for first in the division and jostling for playoff position, these points mean everything down the stretch.”
The Ducks have won eight straight and 15 of 17 while vying for their fourth straight division title. The Kings haven’t finished first in their division since the 1990-91 season under coach Tom Webster.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot just to continue and keep pushing forward,” Perry said. “It’s right there. We can see it in our sights now, and it’s getting closer.”
The Kings have a game in hand on Anaheim with 21 games remaining on their schedule, including two more showdowns with the Ducks. The Ducks trailed the Kings by 15 points on Jan. 2, but since then, Anaheim has gone 19-4-1 and Los Angeles 12-10-2.
“I wouldn’t have thought it back then. But when you’re living in the moment, you don’t really notice it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’re near the top of the mountain, but we’re not at the top of the mountain yet, so we have to keep persevering.”
David Perron had one of three power-play goals for Anaheim – on an assist from Perry – and John Gibson made 27 saves. The Ducks have won their last nine games against division opponents and are 10-1-2 against the Kings since the start of the 2013-14 season.
“We’re obviously cognizant of where we are in the standings, but I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all. We just want to play good,” Boudreau said. “We’ve won a couple of times where we didn’t – but when we played the better teams, we’ve stepped up. Today was like a playoff game out there, and both teams played like it.”
Alec Martinez and Tanner Pearson scored for Los Angeles and Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots. The Kings, coming off a 2-0 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night, are 8-1-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets.
“We made some tired mistakes,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think guys looked a little gassed. It’s going to happen when you get caught in a turnaround against a good team like that.”
Perry’s third goal of the night came at 1:27 of the third when he banked his own rebound past Quick’s pads for a 3-2 lead. His hat trick was Anaheim’s first since Jan. 14, 2015, when Perry scored three against Toronto at Honda Center.
“You have to believe guys like Corey and Ryan Getzlaf are going to turn it around,” Boudreau said. “Their body of work over the last (11) years have proven that they’re going to be that good in the end. Corey knows where the net is, and in big games he’s a great player.”
The Ducks have won their last seven games at Honda Center since the Kings beat them 3-2 on Jan. 17.
The Kings grabbed a 2-1 lead at 9:52 of the second period when the puck took a weird bounce off the end boards and ended up on Pearson’s stick. Gibson was caught napping while Pearson beat him to the stick side for his 11th goal.
Perry tied it at 17:57 of the second, playing a carom off the end boards and stuffing the puck between Quick’s stick and the left post while Jeff Carter was serving a hooking penalty.
The Ducks opened the scoring at 16:48 of the first, extending their streak to eight straight games with a power-play goal while Nick Shore was serving an interference penalty.
NOTES: The Kings acquired nine-year veteran RW Kris Versteeg from Carolina for LW Valentin Zykov and a conditional fifth-round draft pick. Versteeg helped Chicago win Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2015. … Perry and Getzlaf have each played 58 regular-season games against the Kings. Perry has 23 goals and 43 points, Getzlaf 19 goals and 49 points. … The Kings haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their last eight games. The Ducks had an eight-game stretch in December in which they didn’t score more than two in any of them. … Milan Lucic has gone eight straight games without a point, his longest drought since a 19-game stretch during his 2007-08 rookie season with Boston.