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Hockey / Sports

The Anaheim Ducks' Hampus Lindholm (47) and the Los Angeles Kings' Matt Frattin battle for the puck in the second period in the NHL Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

A Ducks kind of a day outdoors

LOS ANGELES -- In the midst of everything that you couldn't imagine associated with the sport of hockey, a historic game was played on ice Saturday night at Dodger Stadium that defied all who thought this idea was destined for failure.

The famed ballpark was a blur of activity and none of it had to do with baseball. Some folks were playing beach volleyball while others were tossing footballs and Frisbees back and forth. Even a quick yoga class broke out.

The presence of the bands KISS and Five For Fighting added a Hollywood-like feel to the craziness that made the NHL's first venture outdoors in Southern California an event. At its core was another matchup of natural rivals seeking two points.

The Ducks grabbed them, as they've collected two by two all season. Jonas Hiller marked the occasion by pitching a 36-save shutout under the elements while Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey scored first-period goals in a 3-0 win over the Kings.

Skeptics wondered how the league could possibly have a game that took root on frozen ponds in Canada and fostered in the cold climates of the northern and eastern parts of the United States played in a place more akin to the desert.

Thanks to the abilities of Dan Craig, the NHL's ice guru, and his refrigeration truck, the ice surface held up just fine and allowed the 54,099 of split loyalties celebrate how far hockey has come in the Golden State.

Hall of Fame announcers Vin Scully and Bob Miller helped usher in the momentous contest, with Scully ramping the sellout crowd by saying, "And now it's time for ... NHL hockey."

"It was great," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "I thought they did a great job putting it on. It was a hectic week getting ready for it. Our organization, their organization. It went off without a hitch."

Teemu Selanne wanted to fulfill this bucket-list item before he called it a career. The future Hockey Hall of Famer, who would get an assist on Beleskey's goal, was overwhelmed by the atmosphere.

"When I stepped in the stadium, it looked awesome," Selanne said. "And the ice, it was a little tough yesterday. But they did a great job. The ice was way better than we thought.

"You know what? We enjoyed it more than a normal regular-season game. It was just outstanding."

Hiller was the brightest star, stopping everything that came his way for his fourth shutout of the season and 20th of his career. It was quite the comeback after being pulled Tuesday night against Winnipeg, allowing three goals on just 11 shots.

The loss was the first for the Ducks (39-10-5) in regulation at home but the Swiss netminder atoned for that 32 miles up the road. Hiller was razor-sharp from the moment Wayne Gretzky dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff and Jordin Sparks finished off the national anthem.

Hiller made 20 of those saves in the first period, including a penalty shot by Kings center Anze Kopitar and a stellar door-stop save on Jeff Carter.

"Hillsy's a big reason why we're standing here victorious," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "He stood on his head and we got some timely goals when we needed them."

Perry put in a loose puck after Kings goalie Jonathan Quick couldn't fully secure Getzlaf's shot just 2:45 into the first. Beleskey then chipped a shot over Quick at 8:12 to finish off a strong cycle shift between him and linemates Nick Bonino and Selanne.

"Good forehceck by 'T' and Bones," Beleskey said. "We started to play a little bit together trying to find each other. He just kind of shot it at me. Luckily it bounced in.

"Two points where what we were after. Everything else is a bonus and it was a great bonus. Thrill of a lifetime for sure."

The Kings would take their fifth straight defeat while the Ducks (39-10-5) built a 19-point bulge over their rival.

Said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty: "It was a great experience, something I will always remember. I wish I could remember it as a win."

A beaming NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was once cold to the thought of an outdoor game played in a warm-weather climate, scoffed at the notion that the league went over the top with the periphery surrounding the game.

"This house was filled with a lot of enthusiastic and passionate fans representing both teams," Bettman said. "It was a lot of fun. And people in the stands thought it was a lot of fun. It looked great on television.

"It was in every sense of the word a Hollywood production. What better way to do an event like this in Southern California?"

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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DUCKS, KINGS


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