LOS ANGELES — Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists, and the Los Angeles Kings opened the tenure of interim coach Willie Desjardins with a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.
Dustin Brown and Kyle Clifford scored first-period goals, while Jack Campbell made 30 saves and picked up his first career assist as the Kings comfortably won the first Freeway Faceoff of the season for these two struggling Southern California rivals.
Desjardins has run just one practice since getting his new job Sunday after the Kings fired John Stevens early in his second season in charge. Los Angeles had slumped to the bottom of the overall NHL standings despite a wealth of top-end talent, but Desjardins said he wouldn’t make any drastic changes early on.
The former Vancouver coach’s new players responded with plenty of the passion they usually lacked under Stevens, who took the fall along with assistant coach Don Nachbaur for the Kings’ 4-8-1 start.
Tyler Toffoli’s empty-net goal clinched the Kings’ first back-to-back victories of the season. Los Angeles has won three of four overall following a six-game skid with a huge boost from newcomer Kovalchuk, who has nine points during that four-game stretch.
Ryan Kesler scored and John Gibson stopped 23 shots for the injury-wracked Ducks, who have lost eight of nine and earned points in just three games during that span.
Brown got the Kings’ first goal of Desjardins’ tenure when he swatted Kovalchuk’s centering pass out of midair just 6½ minutes in. The goal was Brown’s third in four games since spending the first 10 games of the season sidelined by a broken finger.
Clifford got his second goal of the season later in the opening period, getting alone in front of Gibson for a backhand after a defensive breakdown by the Ducks.
Kovalchuk made it 3-0 early in the second, getting his fifth goal of his first season with the Kings on a breakaway set up by a long pass from Campbell.
Kesler got the Ducks going with a deflection of Marcus Pettersson’s shot later in the second.
NOTES: The clubs met for the 138th time. The Kings improved to 61-51-26 in the Freeway Faceoff. ... Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf returned to the lineup after missing one game with an upper-body injury. Patrick Eaves also played in his third straight game, but Anaheim is still without forwards Corey Perry, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie. ... Ducks forward Brian Gibbons got hurt in a collision with teammate Andrew Cogliano at the moment Kesler’s goal entered LA’s net. Gibbons bled onto the ice from his face before heading to the dressing room. He returned for the third period. ... Desjardins stuck with the same lineup used by Stevens on Saturday. ... The Ducks wore their third jerseys, allowing the Kings’ white jerseys to make a rare appearance at Staples Center.
Ducks: Host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
Kings: Host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.