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ANAHEIM — As long as the Kings had Adrian Kempe skating on the Honda Center ice on Wednesday night, anything seemed possible. They could even stick a guy in goal who hadn’t played in the NHL in nearly six years and had been waived twice this season and still win the game.
Fresh off his second career hat trick Monday, Kempe scored twice more in the Kings’ 5-1 victory on Wednesday over the Ducks, giving Troy Grosenick his first victory since his NHL debut Nov. 16, 2014. Kempe’s power-play goal in the opening minutes set an early tone.
Grosenick made 33 saves to improve his career record to 2-1-0.
“Billy said at the morning skate, ‘This is what we planned for, this is what we talked about,’” Grosenick said of a a pregame pep talk with goaltending coach Bill Ranford. “That’s all that needed to be said. As far as preparation, I don’t think it matters much for me. Same old thing.
“Take the next shot as it comes, take the next day as it comes.”
Kings goalie Cal Petersen was ruled out after being placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list earlier in the day. Jonathan Quick couldn’t play because of an injury. So, the Kings turned to Grosenick to start and recalled Matt Villalta from the Ontario Reign of the AHL to serve as his backup.
Grosenick had appeared in a grand total of two NHL games before he was pressed into service, a pair of starts for the San Jose Sharks in 2014-15. He won one, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes on 45 shots, and lost one, making 10 saves against the Buffalo Sabres.
The 31-year-old Grosenick spent the next five seasons in the AHL, playing 183 games with the San Jose Barracuda and the Milwaukee Admirals. The Kings signed him as a free agent in October, then waived him. The Edmonton Oilers claimed him, then waived him.
The Kings claimed him again.
“He did fine,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said of Grosenick. “You don’t want to take anything away from him. He don’t think we made it nearly as difficult on him as we could have. It didn’t feel like there were lots of opportunities with lots of bodies in front.”
A 1-0 lead and a couple of fortunate bounces eased Grosenick’s burden in the opening minutes. With the Ducks on a power play, Vinni Lettieri hammered a shot from the wing past Grosenick and off the crossbar. Moments later, Max Comtois beat him but hit the goal post.
The Ducks said they were concerned about the Kings’ power play after giving up two man-advantage goals in a 6-5 shootout victory Monday. Apparently, they weren’t concerned enough to stay out of the penalty box, though, and they paid the price for their undisciplined play.
Kempe scored the first of his goals only 3:46 into the game, a power-play strike that gave the Kings their first lead over the Ducks in three games. It was as if the puck was following him after Ducks defenseman Jani Hakanpaa blocked a perimeter shot and fired a clearing pass to the wing.
The puck landed on Kempe’s stick and he one-timed it past a helpless John Gibson.
Anze Kopitar extended the Kings’ lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 5:20 of the second.
Sam Steel countered for the Ducks 19 seconds later, cutting it to 2-1.
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Kempe restored the Kings’ two-goal lead at 17:55 of the second with his fifth goal in five periods, converting on a pass from the wing from Trevor Moore after a Ducks turnover at their own blue line. The goal came against the run of the play, with the Ducks buzzing at the other end.
Andreas Athanasiou and Alex Iafallo added third-period goals.